In the week since our return from Ethiopia …

February 27th, 2015 by Roger Darlington

  • We have had our third and last rabies injection.
  • We have had our third and last (for a year) hepatitis B injection.
  • We have completed our course of maleria tablets.
  • All the clothes have been washed and ironed (mostly at our local dry cleaners).
  • Even our dusty, hard working trainers have been cleaned (in our washing machine).
  • All the photos have been uploaded onto the computer and a selection now have to be added to my web account of the trip.
  • All the photos have been printed and around three-quarters of them will be mounted in albums.

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What do you know about the Internet of things?

February 25th, 2015 by Roger Darlington

My latest IT column provides a short introduction to this fascinating subject. Check it out here.

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10 things we learned from this year’s Academy Awards

February 24th, 2015 by Roger Darlington

Last night, we watched a two-hour programme of the highlights of this year’s Academy Awards. It was good to seen British artists – most notably Eddie Redmayne – do so well.

i have seen four of the eight films which wee nominated for Best Picture, but I have still not viewed the winner “Birdman”.

So, what did we learn from this year’s Oscars? Here’s a list of 10.



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15 + 1 greetings from around the world

February 23rd, 2015 by Roger Darlington

View Interactive Version (via Two Little Fleas).

And an extra one from me: in Ethiopia, from where I have just returned, while still holding the right hand of your companion, you touch your right shoulder to your friend’s right shoulder three times.

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“The greatest novel you’ve never read”

February 22nd, 2015 by Roger Darlington

This is the description given by the “Sunday Times” newspaper to the novel “Stoner” written by the American John Williams and published as long ago as 1965. You can read my review here.

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What happened when I split my tea

February 22nd, 2015 by Roger Darlington

After two weeks away in Ethiopia, I haven’t quite settled into home yet. So somehow I managed to spill a full cup of tea over my computer keyboard. Once I had wiped up the mess, my keyboard looked cleaner than at any the since I bought it, but a number of the letters no longer worked.

So today I had to buy a new keyboard. I went for one without all the numbers on the right since i don’t do any calculations on my computer. Also i switched from a wired keyboard to a wireless one. Another IT crisis over …

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Our Ethiopian odyssey: the complete narrative

February 21st, 2015 by Roger Darlington

During our two-week holiday in Ethiopia, I blogged most days about the travel experience of that day. I have now pulled all the postings into a single narrative.

Even if you read the various blog postings, you might want to look at the narrative because:

  • the headings relate to locations rather than dates
  • there are hyperlinks to related web sites
  • some errors have been corrected and a few facts added

You can check out the narrative here.

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What happened when I missed my desserts

February 21st, 2015 by Roger Darlington

A day after our return from a two-week holiday in Ethiopia, I weighed myself and found that I had lost almost 3 kilos.

Partially this must be due to all the tough walking we did. Partially, however, it must be because we rarely had deserts and then it was usually a banana.

As friends and colleagues know, I do love my desserts. What sort? Check it out here.

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Our Ethiopian odyssey (14): conclusion

February 20th, 2015 by Roger Darlington

Our flight back to London was an overnight one, so Dawit took us out for our first non-hotel meal. It was to a place called the “2000 Habesha Cultural Restaurant”. In fact. It was not like a restaurant at all: a large rectangular room had buffet food at one of the narrow sides and a stage on one of the long sides. The food was divided into fasting and non fasting food, the difference being that fasting food uses no animal products and is consumed by those observing the Ethiopian version of Lent.

The stage was the platform for a performing troupe which consisted of five musicians playing traditional instruments, two singers (one male and one female) and six dancers (three male and three female). The music was quite repetitive but the dancing was immensely energetic. Traditional Ethiopian dancing makes most use of the upper body with jerky movements of the shoulders especially. Naturally individual dancers came down among the audience and invited selected individuals to emulate their moves and naturally Roger had a go in the interests of international relations.

So, another holiday abroad is over. How should we assess this one?

Well, a holiday in Ethiopia is not for everyone. The country scores among the lowest on the globe in the World Development Index and in terms of GDP per capita. It was humbling to see such abject poverty and to appreciate just how privileged we are and a real pleasure to find how friendly people are and how much young people want to practice their English.

Ultimately, however, for the tourist who wants something different and is prepared for some challenges, Ethiopia is a great destination. The exotic names of places we visited were themselves magical: Addis Ababa, Axum, Lalibela … But the history was so rich and fascinating, whether it was the skeleton of Lucy, the stelae of Axum, the rock churches of Lalibela, or the castles of Gondar and the terrain was awesome whether it was the mountains of the Simien National Park or the waters of Lake Tana. In fact, four of the locations we viewed are World Heritage Sites.

Although this was only a trip of two weeks, it involved six flights and seven hotels, not to mention some long road journeys and some difficult walking. On the road, there are generally no service stations or cafes suitable for foreigners. A couple if the hotels were excellent, while the others were adequate but often lacking in the sort of services that are common in most countries, such as decent lighting, space to hang clothes, and Internet access which is not continuously absent or lost and that is not slower than we remember from dial up.

At one level, we never had to worry about food and drink because breakfast, lunch and dinner for every day were included in the tour arrangements and price, the food was aimed at a western palate, and we were constantly supplied with bottled water. At another level, we were anxious about food because hygiene levels are low and two of the group had very serious diarrhoea. Vee never has stomach problems on holiday and Roger was fine until the last day. In fact, the food was much better than we expected, if unspectacular, but the service was invariably very slow and a bit hit and miss.

The holiday was made by our tour guide Dawit. He was immensely knowledgeable and resourceful and coped very well with some difficult individuals and situations. He has a great love for his country’s history and culture and communicated this clearly and passionately.

Although, for Roger & Vee, this was probably the most challenging holiday of our lives, we loved it and were inspired by it. We feel sure that Ethiopia has a real future as a tourist destination for the discerning traveller and we were delighted that we had visited before it becomes popular.

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Our Ethiopian odyssey (13): back to Addis Ababa

February 19th, 2015 by Roger Darlington

Our last day in Ethiopia – day 13 (Thursday) – started early with the alarm at 5.45 am. Vee & Roger found that, in spite of mosquito nets in our four-poster bed, we had been bitten on face, arms and hands. The group left the hotel at 7.30 am and proceeded to the airport at Bahir Dar where we took our fourth and final internal flight. This was a return to Addis Ababa which only took 40 minutes.

The last time we were in the capital it was Sunday and it was very apparent now that this was a week day because the traffic was very heavy. Nevertheless we were driven around the Mercato which is said to be the largest open-air market in Africa. It was not just much larger than the three other markets we had seen, but more substantial with most shops located in permanent structures. One area concentrates on recycled materials, while another section is supplied by stolen goods.

At this point, we returned to the hotel where we had started out holiday – the Radisson Blu – where, after lunch, we were allocated day rooms. At 3 pm, there was the final excursion of the trip but only five members – including Roger – took advantage of this. There was still more shopping to be done so we visited a textile factory & shop called Muya Ethiopia and then some other shops. Roger went to the first shop and bought a number of items but he skipped the other shops because, alone of the group, he was very keen to visit the Red Terror Martyrs Memorial Museum.

This museum, which was opened in 2010, commemorates the murder of opponents of the communist Derg (the word means simply ‘Committee’) mainly in 1977-78. All the exhibits in the museum – mainly photographs of political demonstrations and of victims of the atrocity – are labelled in Amaric and (poor) English and an English-speaking guide was available to provide further explanation. According to Amnesty International, up to half a million people were killed in the terror and a small room in the museum features glass cases full of skulls and bones of a selection of the victims. The guide told Roger: “This is our Holocaust”.

Dawit explained that the museum does not provide some appropriate context. Initially the military Derg – who overthrew the Emperor Haile Selassie – were popular with most people because they reformed the land tenure system and controlled food prices. But clearly this was another case in history of a revolution devouring those it was originally intended to serve.

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