Wednesday, 22 July 2009

An African Morning

Africa is different in the mornings; I have always loved early mornings. The pre dawn hours spent on airfields loading C130 always held a romance for me that was lost on Corporal “Cold and tired” or Squadron Leader “I could be in the bar”. Whether half light of an rural dawn or the sodium lights of an airfield pan I have always loved early mornings. I am not talking of breathtaking sunrises or rich palettes of oranges, russets and ochres but of the cool quiet breeze of morning.

I chanced an 0530 loading for one of our clients and this afforded me the opportunity to clear Accra before the masses awoke and started to transit to their places of work. In just three junctions and five minutes we were on the highway headed for Tema Port. The air pregnant wit moisture blew briskly over the driver and I as we inhaled the dawn vapours a heady mixture of smoke and tropical dew.

Only the buffeting of the air through the wind disturbed the calm. There were no horns, calls, shouts bells or buzzers. Truckers pulled them selves from under damp blankets and hauled themselves from the relative safety of the area beneath their vehicles. Each rubbing cold limbs stretching and then casually sauntering to the hard shoulder to urinate in to the fronds of vegetation. Small groups gather around billy cans and portable brazier making tea or porridge or some other wholesome start. They seem blissfully unaware of our rapid progression toward Tema. The violent intensity of the Pan African truck driver is lost in the ease of the morning. Already a mother with two toddlers has set up a cooking pot and has hot coals simmering cocao.

As we near Tema the first school children start to appear, it is now 6am; older brothers and sisters escorting younger siblings across the normally busy high way. Men come from the bush hauling up ill fitting jeans having just taken care of their ablutions. Vigorous head rubbing the apparent cure for a night spent in the open. Until now the quite undisturbed and then the first truck rumbles past us, the creak and groan of an old chassis unwillingly lugging a 40ft container; but still no horns just a view of an Africa without guile; innocently risen from its slumber.

Sunday, 19 July 2009

Ghana Week 2 - an extract from a letter to friends

Ghana or perhaps Accra is not a place to make you wax lyrical. Any semblance of cultural diversity has been swamped by Diageo, Coca Cola and a host of other corporations. Yes the folk are a little darker, the waits for service a little longer and the temperature a little warmer but it is a city, cosmopolitan in place deprived in other and dour in many. Yesterday we opened tunnel Charlie and headed for Aburi and the mountains, there sits atop these mountains the Botanical Gardens opened by His Excellency Flt Lt Jerry Rawlings, appears a Flt Lt can go a long way in this place. NOw this is not Kew Gardens or really any other Botanical Garden I have found around the world, but it was a cool calm haven from Accra with many different types of tree all carefully described in faded white lettering on blue painted tins signs. Including a tree planted by HRH ER on her visit in 1961, Laura mused whether HRH would remember it, I like to believe she does. The buildings have the air of cherished but aged grandparents, loved yet slowly slipping away, the post colonial decay has obviously been hard to arrest, mosses and lichens creep slowly across once immaculate white painted balustrades. 1960s concrete terraces now erupt with vegetation as the botanical claims back it's forest roots.

From the Botanical Garden to Hillburi, a quiet resort (no accomodation) - it reminds me of the hill top stations of the empire. Not in design or grandure but of feel. Carefully sitiuated above the malaria line an afternoon of Pimms and good food can be had reasonably inexpensively whilst looking over the petit jungle of the hillsides of Aburi and Peacadu. There is a pool with a daily lounging charge and divertions such as table tennis and pool and in times past it may have been decribed as a amost agreable place. Fortunately the prejudices of 1909 are long gone and Ghanaian and ExPat dine side by side although sadly I feel the ghost of times past in the manner in which both communities brush past each other with no acknowledgement. Maybe this will change when the generations who knew it are gone.