...back in the UK and living a "normal" life
after nearly 8 years with Mercy Ships...
This Blog serves as two things: a photo-diary of our lives between 2007 and mid 2011, when we saw some incredible things and met some amazing people; and a reflection of our more normal lives since then.
I tried to put this blog into retirement, but received a deluge of comments asking me not to (mostly from Anna). So I'm playing with the Blogger app on my phone, which is a work in process I admit, to hopefully start mobile blogging.
In the meantime, here's a photo of one of my very cool Christmas presents - a long-handled wire-brush scraper for removing the moss and weeds from block paving. I did the whole drive in a couple of hours today. Brill. Thanks Noah and Anna!
Testing of photo uploaded via Blogger app: can't centralise this photo. Huh. Olly
We join the Liberian people in celebrating the re-opening of Liberia's Mount Coffee hydro-electric plant, and re-commissioning of the distribution network.
The plant was built in the early 1960s and generated 64 megawatts, but was damaged in 1990 during a period of fighting, when the river overflowed and washed away one of the dams thus rendering the plant useless. The generation house was then systematically looted for scrap metal until it was secured in 2007, when I visited, by which time there was nothing left except the concrete structure. Meanwhile, most of the pylons, cable, transformers - in fact the whole distribution system into Monrovia - was also looted, and any remaining parts of the system became overgrown with foliage.
Rehabilitation of the plant began in May 2012, and suffered an 8 month delay during the Ebola crises, but the plant came on-line on 15th December 2016, and will eventually generate 88 megawatts.
Watch a very cool video on the rehabilitation here:
Today, 1st May 2016, My-Mate-Rick-At-Work and I ran in another road race - the Glastonbury "Round The Tor" race. It was a very well organised run, with a fun-run for the tiny kids, a 3k run and a 5k run for the less adventurous, and the big 10k run in which there were over 2000 entrants.
The finish point was just outside Glastonbury Town Hall, which was also the meeting point of the local Morris Men and a bunch of Druids who were celebrating something May 1st-ish - the festival of Beltane I believe they call it. So Glastonbury was a busy place full of people in all kinds of dress...
Above, Rick and I with tow kids from our school and their mum...
Today, my new dive buddy and I partook in a shore dive from Chesil Cove, Dorsetshire. And oh my gosh, how hard it was. Forget 35 degrees C water, today it was 10 degrees. And diving in a drysuit with gloves and hood. With 42 pounds of weights (I know, I got this really wrong, should have been more like 20 pounds)...
And with a heavy steel cylinder.
So I came out of the sea after 40 minutes with numb hands and a numb face, and couldn't even stand (wave/weight combination) and couldn't get my gear off to get out of the waves (numb hands/wave combination) and eventually, having being dragged out of the surf by my buddy, I didn't even have the energy to remove my gloves. Talk about exhausting,
This week I unpacked my tools for the first time since returning from Africa nearly 5 years ago. I found my tenon saw, which was the first tool I ever bought (1981, Southport), and I found a handful of tools from my first ever tool kit (Christmas, 1982, Menston). I even found a tiny little hammer I think I inherited from Grandad Peet.
Anyway, to house all these tools I had to re-organise my shed, so here is the finished product:
I am very proud of it!
Surely, this wins the prise for the most boring blog entry I have evert made, eh? But I guess life just isn't as exciting as it once was...
One of the delights of living in South West England is that we've got a few ancient historic monuments all within an hours drive. We've just spent the weekend at a holiday cottage with Sally's side of the family, all within site of Glastonbury Tor, which looks like this from about half a mile away:
...and like this from on top:
The pointy bit you can see for miles around is actually the remains of St Michaels Church, built in the 14th century and mostly destroyed during the reformation in 1539, and at that time the brutal execution place of the last Abbot of Glastonbury and two of his monks.
Recently, the whole of the Glastonbury area has been absorbed all year round by the festival's atmosphere, with a hefty number of purple shops in town staffed by people with purple hair, selling crystals, rain makers and dream catchers (etc etc). A lot of the people walking up the Tor wore unusual clothes and had purple hair too. Smashing. Olly
In the wee small hours of Sunday, our clocks moved forward an hour, signalling the beginning of British Summer Time! So what better way of celebrating than our first 'van trip of the year, in the freezing rain and howling winds.
We went to Oathill Farm Holiday and Touring Park just outside Crewkerne - lovely little place - and had a brill time despite the weather. Only had 2 nights away instead of 3 - our first night away - originally at The Inside Park, was cancelled due to torrential rain flooding our pitch before we got there, so we had to sacrifice a night and find a new location on Easter Sunday morning. My favourite child (Anna) was amazing, as always! She helped out a lot and showed off her amazingness by helping people over the cliffs on the amazingly wet walk. However much I write about her, you could never understand how much I truly do adore that child. She is more perfect than you (unless you are Jesus).
Below, our two Hymers Swings:
Below: Noah and Dodge have their GCSE exams this coming May & June, so they had to spend many hours revising in the warmth of our 'van, poor chaps.
Below, West Bay from the gert big hill that Anna so helpfully wrote about earlier. Our walk to Burton Bradstock was cut short by horizontal, torrential rain. Lovely.
Well I guess the weather was to be expected; Easter is early this year. Lets hope it warms up soon so our next trips out are warm(er) and dry(er). Apparently Easter will be later next year, so maybe we'll have a warm start to 2017 'vanning.
Olly (with a little help from Anna, can you guess which bit she wrote?).
A couple of weeks ago I took this photo of Anna at Illuminate, one of our church's Friday night youth clubs. Anna had her face covered in shaving foam, and then her team-mates had to throw Wotsits (like Cheetos) to stick onto the foam.
Today, My-Mate-Rick-From-Work and Mercy-Ships-Barry and I ran the Yeovil half marathon. The course started with 2 loops of Yeovil town centre, and ended in the town centre too, so we were treated to a great atmosphere with cheering crowds.
It was extremely well organised, with hundreds of stewards and volunteers.
Rick and I did it in 1 hour and 53 minutes and I lost 2 toe nails in the process. Great fun though. Olly
Does the name "Appelsbosch" bring back horrible memories of broken buildings, cold grey echoing corridors, scorched grass, and isolation? Or did you have a great time in Appelsbosch? Ever wonder what's happened to the place since we left it just over 6 years ago?
Apparently it became part of the Coastal Kwazulu Natal Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) College. Click here to look at their link.
They can provide accommodation for 295 students. Good luck to 'em! Hope they like mist and no running water.
Hot on the heals of such events as Bake Off For Sports Relief, Libby is taking part in Come To School As Your Favourite Sports Personality For Sports Relief. Here she is dressed as her hero, Team USA's butterfly champion Dana Vollmer.
Last Sunday, My-Mate-Rick-From-Work, Rob and I ran the cross-country Great Western Race at Lewiston School, which was exhausting with deep mud and steep hills. Before the 10k Race, there was a 2k race for kids, so here's a photo of Kitty and Anna running together (bottom right corner), courtesy of the Western Gazette.
Today was Sally's first competitive race, the Weymouth Bay 10k. We're all very proud of her. Anna ran the last half kilometre with her, and Noah popped open a bottle of Prosecco as she crossed the start line, which we shared with the Braziers and My-Mate-Rick-From-Work.
Although running in races in never actually fun - it's the whole social event and feeling of achievement afterwards - Sally says she'll race again some day! Excellent. Olly
I've just stumbled across a Vimeo video made by the current Dive Team on the Africa Mercy in Madagascar. Watch it here. Those lucky, lucky divers: they are diving in crystal clear water, with beautiful tropical fish and great visibility - a whole world apart from the sewers I used to dive in, in West Africa. So good luck, guys, when you arrive in Benin later this year and won't even be able to see your hands in front of your face in those filthy, polluted, garbage filled waters. Olly
My first competitive race of 2016 was the BustinSkin Dirty Devil Stampede that Mr Gates and I ran today at Bovington Tank Range in Dorset. In f-f-f-freezing cold 4 degree weather we ran 10 kilometres in deep mud, freezing thigh-deep water, and up and down tank berms (I think thats what they are called).
Below, me running through the first wet bit:
Below, me running through...another...wet bit, with Mr Gates on the left in the grey t-shirt:
Below, some dude falling over in a muddy bit:
Below, some other dude falling over in a wet bit. Total wipeout:
Below, climbing a tank berm:
Below, more mud:
Below, at the end. Rick got a lot wetter than I did.
Brilliant fun. Time 56 minutes and 30 seconds, in 62nd place and 63rd place (out of 322 runners - not bad eh). Olly
So it's been 7 months since I last posted an entry. My bad. I doubt anyone reads this blog anyway, but as I've put thousands of hours into it, I may as well continue with the occasional blog post...
On reflection 2015 was a good year. Lets start with the latest family photo taken on Christmas day:
Meanwhile, the summer started early, and we managed two good caravan trips away before the Great Wet British Summer arrived, which then became the Great Wet British Autumn and is now the Great Wet British Winter. We sold our old Adria caravan and bought a newer Hymer caravan for a bargain price, in excellent condition and with no leaks!
Our new caravan (14 years old instead of 22)
at it's storage site in Loughborough before we collected it
My running continued, and I ran the Lewiston 10k Cross Country in February, the Yeovil Half Marathon in March (with Barry who we met in 2008 in Liberia with Mercy Ships, below):
...the Martock 10k in May, and the Weymouth 10 Mile in October (with Rick, below):
Noah has followed the "Couch to 5k" programme and is now a good runner, and sometimes Sally, Noah and I all run at the same time. And Libby and Anna occasionally run around the block too.
Sally is brilliant, and still juggles the kid's after-school activities, homework, making packed lunches, cooking dinner whilst I'm at work. Love her to bits.
The kids are doing really well. Libby is 11, in the last year of Primary School, and loves life and is still a handfull. She loves swimming, and is great at the Butterfly, and her ambition is to be in the Olympics one day.
Libby waiting to swim at the Dorset School Games County Finals in Bournemouth.
On 11th November we celebrated 10 glorious years of her being part of our family.
Anna (14) is in year 9, and also full of life and loves singing and acting. She has been in a couple of school plays and musicals, and sings in the Youth Worship Band at church.
Noah (16) is taller than me. He is is the middle of his GCSE mocks right now (very stressful). He also plays keyboard in the Youth Worship Band at church, and is on the AV Team there, and works all-nighters with Revolution Audio in his spare time.
Our summer holidays consisted of a week at New Wine (where it rained, and where we received our spiritual top-up) and a week at a caravan club site in Devon (where it rained). But despite our unglamorous vacations, I am constantly aware that we are amongst the top 10% of the worlds wealthiest people because we live in the UK, and in fact we are amongst the top 5% of the world's wealthiest people because we are home owners.
And God has continued to bless us all, with good health, a great house, lovely friends and family, a beautiful place to live, food, a job for me and a job for Sally, great kids, and good church...we are indeed blessed! And we daily pray for our friends all over the world, especially those close to our hearts who we left behind in Liberia.
Maybe I'll be able to add some photos to this entry once my computer has stopped updating, stupid Apple Updates...
One of my favorite memories of our time in Liberia was the day I joined an Mercy Ships Xtreme Expedition to the remains of Liberia's hydroelectric power station, which had been damaged in the war and then looted in the years since, leaving little more than a concrete shell.
Despite delays due to the Ebola outbreak, work is now well under way to rebuild the power station, as this photo shows. You can see the remains of the building and the old dam wall in the centre of the photo, and all around are the new roads and dams recently constructed to divert the river whilst the old dam is rebuilt. Exciting times! Olly