Tag Archives: Photographs

Jenny and Al’s wedding, 20th September 2014


Yesterday was a very special day – Jenny and Al were married at Emmanuel College, Cambridge. All of the hard work and attention to detail that they and so many others put into the preparation paid off enormously.  It was truly a fantastic day, from the practice session and dinner the night before, through the early morning hair, make-up and dressing, to the service itself, the reception, wonderful meal and evening party!  Thanks so much to everyone there who made it a really special day.  Jeremy, Arnold and Kathleen made the service itself very memorable and joyous.  The staff at Emma did a brilliant job with the food.  Ettie made an incredible cake – well, actually three cakes in one!  The musicians and band (The Zoots) were great – and it was so rewarding seeing everyone dancing and enjoying themselves so much!  I hope that the informal pictures below capture something of a truly memorable day.  Thanks to everyone for making it such a very happy celebration.  Congratulations Mr. and Mrs. Bowe!

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Grameenphone hosted cultural dinner at CTO’s Annual Forum


One of the very real privileges of being Secretary General of the Commonwealth Telecommunications Organisation is the opportunity that it has given me to visit so many different countries and people across the Commonwealth.  It is so important that we celebrate our cultural differences and richness, rather than trying to create a single uniform market across the world! The CTO’s Annual Forum is always an occasion when our host countries share something of their culture, usually in the form of dance and music.  Last night was a very special occasion.  Grameenphone, which started with the Village Phone programme to empower the rural women of Bangladesh in 1997, became the first operator to cover 99% of the country’s people with network, and is now  the leading and largest telecommunications service provider in Bangladesh with more than 48.68 million subscribers as of March 2014.  It was such an honour to meet with Vivek Sood, CEO of Grameen phone and his staff, and I hope that the imagery below captures something of the  excitement, beauty and energy of this wonderful evening. Thank you so much to all of the dancers and musicians who shared so much of their culture with us.

 

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Imagery of Samoa


Over the last few days participating at the UN Small Island Developing States conference in Samoa, I usually left my hotel before the sun was properly up, and have returned after dark. Having come all this way to the Pacific, I could not resist the temptation to go and explore something of the countryside this morning, and so decided to set off for a couple of hours walking along the south coast near the Sinelei Reef Resort. Below are some of the images I took to try to capture the experience.

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I have a kaleidoscope of reflections about Samoa and its people! They keep asking me what I think about my all-too-short time here, and so I also want to share some thoughts here.

It is amazing how much effort the government and people put into convening the conference. This is visible everywhere, from the bunting and painted coconuts along the roadsides in the villages, to the tremendous effort that has gone in to arranging transport for the delegates. This shows the enormous warmth and generosity of the Samoans.

I really appreciated learning from the government officials who accompanied delegates in the mini-buses and shuttles that took us to and from our accommodation. They went out of their way to be helpful and to provide deep insights into island life. Much of what follows reflects their voices. I have to say, though, that not all delegates treated them with the courtesy that I think they deserved!

Samoa seems to be a very gentle and peaceful island, and it has had remarkable political stability over recent years. In part, people say, this is down to culture, and especially the role of Christianity. I don’t think I have ever been somewhere where there are so many churches, often several of different denominations in a single village!

One of the most striking things is the open-sided houses that are to be seen everywhere in rural areas. At night, as I was regularly driven across the island, people were very visible just relaxing in their houses, many of which had bright white mosquito nets showing up very brightly in the electric light.

As for agriculture, the dominant crops were definitely coconuts, bananas and taro, which could be seen everywhere in the lower lying areas of the island. However, I was surprised to see so many cattle grazing, and somehow had not expected the very considerable number of horses that were to be seen! These were the main form of transport before cars were introduced, and many still remain, both as beasts of burden but also for riding for riding and racing.

The island, though, has very clear vegetation zones, and as one ascends the hilly centre, and then falls down to Apia in the north, these are very obvious, with the bananas and coconuts being replaced by a wide range of forest trees. It is also reflected in the weather. One night, there was torrential rain where I was staying, but it had been perfectly dry in the capital, Apia.

The coast itself is amazing, lined with coconuts and with beautiful beaches, stretching away for miles. My photos do not really do this justice! For those who want to get away from everything, and just relax, this would be an ideal place to do so. I can also thoroughly recommend my hotel, the Sinalei Reef Resort! It has a rustic, eco-friendly atmosphere, so very different from the modern luxury resorts to be found across many other Pacific islands. The staff were wonderfully friendly, and were always there to offer advice in the gentle Samoan way.

Samoa also seems to be much less influenced by US culture and style, when compared with other islands such as Fiji. This was wonderfully refreshing! However, other external influences are increasingly obvious, not least the Chinese, who helped to develop the impressive new hospital in Apia, are running many of the shops and small supermarkets, and are also constructing a new building complex in one of the villages through which I walked – apparently, I was told, a school.

I confess I did not know that Robert Louis Stevenson, the author of Treasure Island and Kidnapped was buried on the hill overlooking Apia. Next time I visit, I will have to take the long walk to the top to understood why this was his chosen spot!

My one sadness was that almost every child I met on my walk said to me at some point “Give me money”. This was not an aggressive begging, but it made me think back to the wise advice I was given by my dear friend Sudhir on my first visit to India. What, I think, saddened me most about this was the sense of dependency that was being created. The resonating “Give me money” came so often as I walked past buildings funded by donors such as UNDP and the EU, and it made me realise that all too often such aid, alongside the practice of many tourists who not doubt do give them money, is in some ways demeaning and creating even amongst the youngest islanders a dependent relationship that has to be damaging to their culture. I wanted to say to the children, “Give me your wisdom”, or “Let me learn from you”, but I did not have the linguistic skills to say this.

Overall, I am so grateful for the warmth, gentleness and genuine hospitality of all those Samoans who I met. I have tried to capture my fresh memories here, as a small gift to them, and to encourage others to journey across the oceans to experience something of the peace and beauty of the island. Tread gently, though, so that our presence may enhance rather than damage this wonderful island.

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Pacific Island Dancing: Lifeline Samoa


I had the unexpected pleasure of accidentally attending a dance performance by an amazing group of Samoans who were raising money this evening for Samoa Lifeline (Faataua Le Ol), which is  is the islands’ only non-government organisation dedicated to achieving a suicide free Samoa. Its main aim is to provide the people of Samoa with information, general and more specific help with any problems they may have that might lead them to be distressed enough to possibly consider suicide. It is a great initiative, and the dancers performed a range of dances reflecting those from different parts of the Pacific Islands, albeit largely in a modern idiom.  They were so good that I just want to share these images below:

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Amazing moon over Virginia Water


Going for a short wander down the garden late last night, I could not help but see the amazing moon – so large and bright! Although I am not an astronomer, and don’t have a telescope with a camera, the sight of the moon behind one of the trees in the garden was so beautiful that I just had to photograph the view – and of course the moon itself!  It’s the first time I have ever taken a photo’ that so clearly shows the craters on the moon (click on the image for a larger version!).

I discovered this morning that this phenomenon is know as a “perigee supermoon”, and it occurs as a result of the elliptical orbit of the moon around the earth.  Apparently, there are going to be five such moons in 2014, with the next being on 10th August!

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Locusts at Walter Sisulu Botanical Garden


A short visit to Johannesburg provided an excellent opportunity to visit the beautiful Walter Sisulu Botanical Garden to learn something about the rich diversity of plant and bird life in South Africa.  While there, we encountered hundreds of locusts, and not only saw the devastation that they were doing to some of the plants, but also the amazing beauty of their colours when in flight.  They looked more like brightly coloured small birds than they did green locusts! Trying to capture them in photographs was, though, far from simple, not least since they would show no visible signs of taking off, and then suddenly lift off into the air and speed away.  Even using very fast shutter speeds it was difficult to capture them!  I hope, though, that the selection of images below captures not only their beauty, but also of the damage that they do.

 

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Jordan Wine Estate, Stellenbosch


It is some 40 years since I was last in Stellenbosch – and how it has changed!  Today, I had the privilege of being introduced to the wines of Jordan Wine Estate by Gary and Kathy Jordan – in the company of some good friends.  It is great to see the impact that UC Davis has on far-flung parts of the world, and also to meet wine-makers who combine expertise in geology and economics to produce some really very good wines!  Terroir is definitely alive and well here.  Sadly, I’m not yet able to share the flavours of the wines virtually, but I hope that the images below capture something of the beauty of this part of South Africa, as well as the care and attention to detail that marks out wine-making at Jordan Wine Estate!  Have to say that I particularly enjoyed the 2011 Cobblers Hill – and the lunch!

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