personal travel

How I Ended Up in Gibraltar

So, in case any of you hadn’t noticed I’ve ended up moving to Gibraltar. Typing it out cements its status as quite a bizarre thing that has happened in my life. It’s an odd feeling being honest, especially because of how bruised my arm is after pinching myself too many times to see if I’m dreaming – but I’m still here, or possibly in some deep Matrix-like coma. Maybe we all are, I guess we’ll never know.

The feeling being here is quite different to my experiences of going abroad to Spain and Tanzania, mainly because nobody is holding my hand during the moving process. Both of those relocations were through organisations, where they hooked me up with host families, jobs, and generally kept an eye on us all during our times there. Now it’s me and my girlfriend, all by ourselves and being honest, the freedom of being abroad and making everything work out yourself is probably the best part – if not highly stressful. Yet as they say, no risk no reward.

Made a friend at the top of ‘The Rock’ (September, 2021) 🇬🇮

The story of how I ended up in Gibraltar starts with a solid foundational plan; one that had been in place since November of last year. Charlotte and I had been working towards it since then, getting the necessary paperwork and qualifications together. The thing is, that plan was aimed at moving to Thailand, and moving to Gibraltar hadn’t even crossed our minds until about a month ago.

The initial decision to move abroad came around a month after we’d moved into our flat in Welwyn Garden City. It wasn’t that we were sick of the place already, more to do with the fact we’d been grounded for years and that we’d both developed itchy feet to live away again. That and the fact that we’d never intended to move to Welwyn Garden City, and you get the point.

We had settled pretty early on moving to Thailand as one of my partners’ best friends lived out there, who she hadn’t seen in years. I was just happy to be invited along for the ride. We had nothing in WGC worth staying for, so we got to work securing ourselves a qualification in teaching English as a foreign language (or a TEFL for short).

Ah, the TEFL qualification, the bane of my life. See, when I moved to Lleida, Catalonia, four years ago (four years ahh!!) a section of my contract guaranteed that I would study for and receive a TEFL at the end of my time there. Alas, life, with its giant spanner, threw it into the works and I had to leave my job in Spain earlier than I (and the programme) had originally intended – the chance of getting my TEFL for free while I worked went with it. Thus, I had to fork out £300 to do another one, which for a certified Level 5 qualification wasn’t too bad.

After that purchase I followed up by doing nothing Thailand related. Instead, I worked on The Toucan Man and got promoted at work – all the while the six-month time limit for completing my coursework ticked away. Diamonds are formed under pressure though. Right?

My word was it an absolute slog. After leaving it until the last possible moment to begin, I’d backed myself into a corner where I had to slave night and day on my TEFL. This was not only on my days off, but during work time as well when I could sneak off for 20 minutes at a time. It was horrendous, but I did it, and now I’ve got another shiny qualification on my resume. Even though I never actually used it to get my current job, who knows when it might come in handy in the future. Also, it’s always good to learn new things and add to a fresh arrow to your quiver. On a personal note, I was able to finally tick off something that I should have completed a while ago. So, go me I guess.

Brown on Seashore Near Mountain
Maybe someday… 🇹🇭

We decided that because of the disease that shall not be named we’d be better off booking flights as late as possible to get to Thailand, and that our best chance of employment was getting into the Kingdom first then figuring it out later as the normal recruitment drive for foreign language teachers online had dried up into a barren wasteland.

We didn’t think about it enough to be deterred, too busy building up our savings to fund the, what became increasingly evident, expensive trip. We were excited, passionate and determined to make it work.

This was when August hit and the murmurs coming out of Thailand about another lockdown started increasing in volume, there was talk about pushing back school dates, which meant no classrooms to be taught in, which in turn meant little to no jobs in the country itself as they could all be done over the internet. The October date we would be leaving our Welwyn Garden City flat on was fast approaching, and we were being told to wait for an opening as it might pass in a week or so. Wait we did, and we waited and waited. The good news never came, so we decided that we’d just book our flights and get there, everything else would surely fall into place afterwards.

Then the bureaucracy kicked in, the amount of paperwork required to get into Thailand (at the time of writing) was too much. Each document required another form that couldn’t be filled in until the one we were filling in had been completed. It was chaos, seemingly designed difficult to dissuade people from travelling. In the end, it felt too much like swimming against the tide of a flowing river. We closed the laptop in defeat, the Thailand dream was dead in the water.

However, like a phoenix in the ashes, a new idea formed out of the old one. Our time in WGC was coming to an end, that was a guarantee. The world was now potentially our oyster, as long as it was situated on the UK green list.

This was when the applications started flying out, not for teaching jobs, but for writing positions I was qualified for in Dubai, Malta, and Gibraltar.

For the latter, I was offered an interview the next day for the following week, which I attended and was offered the role two hours afterward. It was mind-bending, we’d gone from fighting the current to being swept up by it, now eager to see where it would throw us off.

After getting off the phone and going hysterical with excitement it dawned on me, we had two weeks to get to Gibraltar. We sold all of our furniture and packed up our belongings, taking only what we could carry. Our backs becoming decimated from 4 days sleeping on the floor as we’d accidentally sent the pump for the airbed back up North with my girlfriend’s dad.

In a way it was the perfect storm. My partner’s job is home-based so she could move to the peninsula freely, combine this with the visa-free access and being on the green list made it a surprisingly simple move. Not long after our arrival we sorted out a flat too. It had all started to finally feel real. We spent our first few days in Gibraltar treating it as a holiday, something we had been unable to do since a trip to Glasgow in early 2020.

Gibraltar at night (October 2021) 🇬🇮

I’m not sure what the moral of this story is. Half of me thinks its knowing when to let go of a pipedream, when to realise something is implausible even if you’ve worked so hard for it – but its in letting go that more opportunities rear their heads, ones that you would have been blind to beforehand like a horse with its blinkers on.

On the other hand, it could be about not selling yourself short, that the opportunities to do what you love will come eventually as long as you work toward them. Being offered a job abroad as a copywriter is something I could have only dreamed of a couple of years ago – especially after working in marketing and my old manager deciding to go external with the company’s copywriting duties, even though that was my bread and butter. In hindsight that may have been the turning point where I started to take writing (and myself) seriously, as I started this website a month or so later.

As I sit here in a bustling café just off Main Street in Gibraltar, with a light lunch of a cortado and quiche, letting myself absorb the new surroundings I find myself in, I’m filled with excitement for the coming years. I don’t grieve a missed opportunity in Thailand, as it was never meant to be, and so in the end never existed.

Because if it had, I’d never be here.

personal travel

Welwyn Garden City: A Town With Hert, Not History

I’ve been struggling with a way to start this blog post, I’ve played with the idea of using a quote or some grand metaphor about living somewhere new and exciting, but that’s just the thing, for the past year I’ve lived in Welwyn Garden City – a commuter town that’s only existed for 100 years more than I’ve been here. It’s no Paris, New York or Rome but that’s the beauty of it, that is why it has been perfect.

When I say that I ended up in this corner of Hertfordshire by complete chance, I honestly mean it. Me and my partner had dreams of grandeur when we moved out of our flat in Bamber Bridge just over a year ago, dreaming of the late nights and bright lights of London Town – but sometimes pipe dreams are just those, pipe dreams. Two months was how long I drifted through the capital, unemployed, bouncing between Airbnb’s, but that was enough for me. Using the 20/20 vision that hindsight brings, London was never right for me.

Not that it isn’t a fantastic city, it really is and I’d highly recommend a visit if you’ve never been. It just never felt like mine, I always felt like a stranger, always feeling the urge to look over my shoulder after finding myself in another area I didn’t know at dusk. That’s just the way in London I’ve found. The streets change personality from one to the next, you could be on a road that houses the rich and famous in one moment, before finding yourself on the next street that’s full of high-rises where the inhabitants can smell the outsider on you. I think it was this juxtaposition that kept me on edge and kept me from truly wanting to stay. London is perfect for a lot of people, just not me, but I’m glad that I tried, and I know that for definite now, instead of spending a lifetime yearning for it.

The move to WGC came about through a connection I’d made in Tanzania, believe it or not, whereby he’d offered me a job role after a few too many pints in Camden Market. I’d applied for over 100 writing jobs, become far too accustomed to the word no, so decided to say yes. I’d never heard of the place outside of it being the birthplace of Alesha Dixon, but I needed the money and I had nothing keeping me in London. So, we booked a hotel for six weeks and started looking for a place.

As it turned out, I did have a prior connection to Welwyn Garden City. The place had given me an eerie familiarity when I’d entered the centre for the first time, and it took having a drink in the Doctor’s Tonic pub to figure it out.

It was Newton Haven, from The bloody World’s End. What a great movie, I’d thought to myself, and now I got to live where it was filmed. Being a massive Edgar Wright fanboy, that fact gave me more satisfaction than the job I was working – but being on a COVID test site I’m sure you can let me get away with that.

Historically, the confusingly named town of Welwyn Garden City was founded in 1920 by a bloke named Sir Ebenezer Howard and quite liked the idea of cities but thought they were a bit too grey, so decided to mix in some trees and fields to spread everything out. He’d tried it in Letchworth first, but I guess he’d decided that he’d failed and fancied another pop. If you’re from LGC don’t @ me, I’m just stating facts you know, second the best and all that.

The man himself, Sir Ebenezer Howard (Welwyn Garden City, 2021)

It was an odd place to end up by chance, it wasn’t somewhere that you’d ever move to the otherside of the country for, but that was what we’d ended up doing. There was an odd melancholy in getting the flat we’d end up spending a year living in, a feeling that we couldn’t go back up North out of pride, but also the feeling that we’d ended up somewhere we’d never wanted to be in the first place, forced into stopping our couch-hopping by the impending second UK lockdown.

Jerk chicken from That Picnic Brand (2021)

It’s been nearly a year since that moment, and I’ve decided that moving to Welwyn Garden City was one of the best things I’ve ever done. It’s an odd feeling finding yourself stuck somewhere with no network, no nostalgia or passion to stay in the area and no attachment to the job that keeps you there. However, I think that’s what made the place perfect, there was nothing to take care of other than ourselves. There was no local drama, no pre-emptive impressions from people who had heard of you at school. We were unknown quantity, it was great, freeing if you will.

Gradually you build a network over time, and I’ve been honoured to make some great friends who I hope stick around for the long haul. On top of that, you learn the lay of the land, you pick up on shortcuts, find the best eating spots (I’d recommend That Picnic Brand in the Wheat Quarter, it’s incredible) and the excellent places to go for long walks.

Welwyn Garden City can be seen best in the dilapidated Shredded Wheat factory that stands dormant over the train station, using its time still standing as a monolith long lost to another era. Yet there are plans to revitalise it, to bring it back as something fresh, new, and exciting. The building blocks are here for Welwyn to turn into something great, it has a history it will grow into, a commute into London that lasts only 25 minutes and the feeling that some culture is going to start rearing its head through the rows of corporate shops that run up and down Howardsgate.

The Shredded Wheat factory in the snow ( Welwyn Garden City, 2021)

I’d be lying if I said that living here has been wild, but it’s been an experience that removed the fog from everything, it made the next step much clearer and much easier to work towards. Pressing the reset button can help you become yourself again, and I was lucky enough to do it for a year during a pandemic which has crippled so many people mentally. For that I count my blessings, I really do.

The coat of arms for Hertfordshire predominantly features the stag, an animal that symbolises instinct, maturity, regeneration, and spiritual enlightenment. I’m not sure if everyone else’s stay in the Hert of England has been the same, but the symbolism seems awfully apt and poetic to me.

Cheers for the memories.

Coat of arms of Hertfordshire County Council

Brad Pitt, Mint Tea and One Very Hungry Camel

So there I was, at high altitude in the Moroccan Atlas Mountains. My ears filled with the droning of a distant goat as it lazed between the Berber huts, seeking shade from the intense heat of the North African sun.

I reached for the bowl of crunchy snacks and grabbed a handful to chew on. As I leaned back against the wall, the straw seat underneath me huffed with dust at the minor movement. I watch as Brad Pitt ran animated on a treadmill, speaking words of a language he did not understand.

burn after reading gifs | WiffleGif

Not where I thought I’d be during an early afternoon in September.

The morning had started like any other during our trip to Marrakech, I had been awoken from my slumber within our quaint riad by the droning call to prayer from the El Yazid Mosque. It was dark, either 3 or 4am. I’d sat and listened to the call everyday since arrival. We were staying deep into the Casbah, but it wasn’t the Clash playing – just the ordinary routine for the Moroccan people.

A few hours pass and the mosque wakes me again. This time I get up to get ready, we’ve got a bus to catch early doors and El Yazid is the most efficient alarm clock I could have ever asked for.

The aforementioned El-Yazid Mosque, a stones throw from our riad.

After some delightful grub from our host, we’re wandering the medina in search of a plain white van. I know this doesn’t sound like the safest course of action for 7am, but around that time they’re sprawled across the streets picking up tourists to take them on their pre-booked TripAdvisor tours. I don’t want to think that happens to the rest.

We were those people. The pair of us, a couple of Glaswegian ravers and two southern fairies later – we’re on the road out of Marrakech. The first stop, some camels.

We’ve all heard about the horror stories of animal mistreatment in this part of the world. We hadn’t booked the tour to do the camel ride – it was anything but. We wanted to hike in the mountains, they just insisted that we dressed up like Berbers and got walked around by the beasts for a bit.

We obliged because the camels seemed well nourished and looked after. Or so we thought, until my camel got the ‘hump’ and started pinching at my girlfriend’s derriere with its teeth.

Being honest with you, I’m no Eliza Thornberry. That wasn’t the first time I’d been removed from the pack and my mule was supplied a leash. It happened during my first time horse-riding as a kid. My charming steed? Gypsy. I was ecstatic, she repaid my excitement with running me into a field and bucking me off before fleeing. The ensuing chase to get her back was hilarious for those watching on, for me I was face down in the dirt.

Me and dogs? We’re amazing together. Just keep me away from any other animal.

A mint tea later, we’re back on the dusty tarmac – full throttle towards the mountains. On arrival we meet our guide, a Sebastian Giovinco lookalike whose name for the life of me I can’t recall. We’ll call him Seb. Sorry mate.

My tour guide before a match with Bulgaria, Credit: Biser Todorov 

As we were hiking the trail towards one of the mountain ranges’ many beautiful waterfalls, one of the southern lads enquired with dread,

“Is there much longer to go?”

His forehead is plastered with oozing sweat, his eyes a flicker of hope. Unfortunately for him, it’s 11am – and this is a day trek. Some people need to stop skim reading the information portion of the booking website. Or at least read the title keenly.

He dragged himself along for another 20 minutes, he’s slowed the pace. My man Seb has hung back to make sure he doesn’t get lost. In a mixture of horror, bemusement and I’m assuming relief – he is unknowingly hoisted onto the back of a donkey, where he will remain for the rest of the trek. In quiet defeat I assume, but happy as long as it was nothing akin to Gypsy.

Seb guided us around several traditional Berber villages during the hike. He filled our ears and eyes with the beautiful culture in which they practice. The Atlas Mountains are truly phenomenal, as is the country of Morocco. Other than being mugged while walking through the tanning district, the rest of our stay was filled with fantastic hospitality and genuinely lovely people.

This hospitality was how I first watched the movie “Burn After Reading”. At Seb’s family home, sandwiched between my girlfriend and his Mother, arguably drinking the best mint tea I’d had during the entire trip.

I don’t know if you’ve ever watched “Burn After Reading”, but that film doesn’t make sense half the time in English. Nevermind when you’ve joined in halfway through and the whole thing has been dubbed in Arabic. But hey, George Clooney! I’m sold.

What the hell?

The day came to a close with a tagine cooking lesson from our riad host, who had gone out and sourced our ingredients whilst we were away for the day. That night we both lay in bed with full bellies, a mind full of memories and no idea what the fuck had just happened.

I closed my eyes and nodded off.

Then the mosque woke me at 4am.

Give this man an Oscar! | Brad pitt, Burn after reading, Me as a girlfriend
A visual representation of my mornings in the Casbah.
personal travel

Reclaiming My Roots: A Liverpool Story

“A good place to wash your hair, Liverpool. Good soft water.” – John Lennon

Liverpool was the heart of my childhood. Coming from a working-class background my parents would often leave me in the care of my grandparents. We would walk around the Wirral and North Wales; but Liverpool was by far the most common.

I’m not a traditional Scouser in any sense of the word, my accent sounds far too south of the Mersey –  but my soul has always belonged to Liverpool. My grandparents on my Dad’s side are originally city natives, which is why we visited so often. My Great-great-grandfather on my Nan’s side was a resident of Llanwyddn, a traditional Welsh-speaking village that was later flooded to create the Liverpool reservoir in November 1889. That area is now known as Lake Vyrnwy. He was offered accommodation in another nearby Welsh village or the chance to move to Liverpool for work. Without a word of English in his brain, he chose the latter.

My Grandad’s side originates from Enniskillen in Northern Ireland, making their way over to ‘Ireland’s Second Capital’ for a better life. The towns name comes from the Irish ‘Inis Ceithleann’, referring to ‘Cethlenn’ – a goddess in Irish mythology. Her story is that she was wounded by an arrow and attempted to swim the River Erne to reach safety. She never reached the other side; the island the town is on was named in her honour. Luckily, he made it to Liverpool, and the Isle of Man isn’t called Andy’s Ancestor Island.

Born in his Nan’s apartment with a view of both Goodison Park and Anfield, my Grandad fortunately chose to support Liverpool. If not for that fateful decision, me and my Dad wouldn’t have our tradition of always watching the Champions League final together when we play in it, instead we would watch the Toffees limp to mid-table every season. So, cheers Grandad!

The reason my family left Liverpool was due to the overcrowding problem. They had moved from Everton to Kensington (where I would later live) and grown disgusted with the rat problems that plagued the area and all the demolition work that was going on.

Liverpool Council funded developments for population overspill in Skelmersdale, Runcorn and Ellesmere Port – the latter of which being the area my family decided to relocate, my Dad at the tender age of 18 months.

This was why we always returned to the city, so me and my brother could reconnect with our roots. I remember the Capital of Culture win in 2008 and being mesmerised by the dilapidated building with the rotating circle within it, fish and chips on the docks and the bustling streets of the pre-Liverpool One high street.

I’d boycotted my high school prom to see Blink-182 at the Echo Arena and I’d watched the Liverpool team bring home the 2006 FA Cup under the deafening hum of vuvuzelas, giddy as Pepe Reina waved at me personally. My Nan had been a painter and she used to craft canvas art of the Beatles in the static caravan at the end of her garden. The city was in my blood – there is no surprise I went for university.

There is a famous quote from one Margaret Simey, a politician and activist from Glasgow. She said that “the magic of Liverpool is that it isn’t England.” The city isn’t too fond of politicians named Maggie, but this one hit the nail on the head. Liverpool was a different world to me growing up, everyone was so friendly and outgoing. I was able to explore the city for myself, it was unique, it was bohemian and most importantly – it felt like home.

In my first-year studying International Journalism at John Moore’s, I lived opposite the still incomplete Royal Liverpool University Hospital, which has been a complete farce worthy of its own article (its actually been pushed back again until 2022 and has incurred a cost of £335 million).

Following that I lived in Kensington and understood straight away what my Grandad had warned me about the rats. They ripped bins to shreds and scuttled around chewing leftover student takeaway from the open-air dinner plate that was the pavement. It was grim. There were also two shootings on the street I lived on, both late in the night that woke me as the shots were fired. I’m also pretty sure we lived in an old drug dealers house as someone would turn up occasionally for a pick-up and bang on the door and scream through the mailbox.

It was during this second year that I’d frequent the Krazyhouse, which was in my opinion the best nightclub in the city before its closure. Sure, it was always dead, but it had a whole floor dedicated to 2000s Kerrang hits, so I loved it. I also bumped into my Dad there once.

Image may contain: 3 people, people smiling
Classy with his two-cans of Red Stripe (Krazyhouse, January 2015).

These nights of fun were paid for by a part-time job at Anfield. It was a dream come true working the kiosks of my beloved football club. My favourite shifts there were in the away end, where the staff and travelling fans would hurl abuse at each other. They were good times, but man am I sick of the ‘slippy Gerrard’ chant.

The Scouser in our team

In my third year, rodent problems persisted as I rented a flat in Toxteth with my partner. Our apartment overlooked Falkner Square; it was brilliant if not for the mice. On the positive side, the best thing about having mice is that there are no rats. As I wrapped up my degree, I had a chance to intern at the Liverpool Echo. I worked alongside cult hero James Pearce, David Prentice and Andy Kelly. The latter of which took me with him to the Liverpool Kirkby Academy to interview then academy player Matthew Virtue. On the drive there he mentioned to me an academy prospect destined for a bright future in the game, his name – Trent Alexander-Arnold. The rest as they say, is history.

I left Liverpool for Spain with a 2:1 degree, a lifetime of memories and a rekindling of my family history. I miss the city whenever I’m not there, and I know deep down I’ll be back again.

Thanks for reading.


A Northerners View on London

A quick disclaimer for y’all, I’m no London expert. I’ve visited a handful of times and I’ve been here for about three consecutive weeks so far. If anything, it means I’m definitely not the person who should be writing this article. But here I am, it’s my blog so deal with it. There are some things I’ve noticed since being in the Big Smoke that are completely different in the land of pies and gravy.

There Are Literally Prets Everywhere

Honest to God, why are there so many Prets? It is the overrated coffee chain for toffs. They’re literally on every corner of this bloody city. Pret for me was an occasional lunch I purchased mid-shift at the Cheshire Oaks when I’d forgotten my own and Maccies was closed. While their delicious brie and avocado toasties were to die for, I wouldn’t flood the city with Prets at the same ratio as Tescos.

I literally got my girlfriend to take this photo to prove a point. Trafalgar Square. (July, 2020).

It is completely bonkers. I’ve spotted a single Gregg’s for every 20 Prets on my wanders around. Trafalgar Square has two across the road from each other. You can literally look longingly at another Pret while you consume your overpriced Pret that you just purchased. I wouldn’t mind but the coffee isn’t even that great – I don’t understand it, I don’t even want to say the P word anymore. Moving on.

You Can Tell There is Actually Funding

Coming straight from Lancashire, this is no surprise. Central London is the richest area in the entirety of Northern Europe, Lancashire is the 7th poorest within the same area. The difference is genuinely stark, and it makes you realise the centrism of the government in this country. The population of Greater London is expected to reach 10 million by 2030. Half the reason for this is migration of labour. The government can use buzzwords like ‘northern powerhouse’ as much as they want, but when the solution is literally to attach the North to London through HS2, you need to rethink your plans.

It’s Unbelievably Flat

I expected so much more from Primrose Hill. Again, coming straight from Lancashire I expected it to be a relatively substantial height. Nope. The word hill is massively misleading. I’d have called it Primrose Lump, or Primrose Slightly Raised Grass.

The view from Primrose Lump (July, 2020)

The view from the ‘top’ is admittedly fantastic, but if this was up north it wouldn’t even have a name. Being honest with you all, it would have already been torn down and made into ‘Primrose Housing Estate’.

The People Are Genuinely Really Friendly

This really took me by surprise, as you hear some horror stories about the abhorrent unfriendliness of ‘Londoners’. Other than one lad who told me to f*ck off for no reason, or the other who walked around the Rose Garden in the Regent’s Park tearing off the unflowered buds like a small child – everyone has been lovely.

Living in Lancashire, even just sitting in a park or walking home I’d get abuse hurled at me for being ginger. I’m not really sure why, it’s great. We all have a massive WhatApp group where we all update each other on our ginger lives. Ed Sheeran, Paul Scholes and Prince Harry are always typing away.

In London though, I’ve had none of that yet. I’m not writing this for sympathy or anything, I’m a big lad and I only cry sometimes. Jokes aside, it’s just something I’ve noticed.

People often talk about the ‘friendliness’ of Northerners, which is true if you’re hiking through the Lake District, smile and say hello to the one other person who walks in your general direction. However, and I don’t know about you, I actually hate it when someone tries to talk to me on the Merseyrail. Please leave me alone. I do not want to become a Mormon; I’ve seen the musical. Even worse is conversations at the urinal. I’m pretty sure that goes against every rule in the bloke handbook.

If you ask me, all of us should adopt the etiquette of the tube. Don’t look at me, let me ride the train in peace unless I already know who you are. The North is very friendly, but so is London. I just find that the friendliness is in more appropriate places. But maybe that’s just me…

Nobody Walks Anywhere

I really enjoy walking, which is lucky considering I passed my driving test and never bought a car. If a journey is an hour or under from my door, odds are I’ll walk it. I met my friend by the Shard the other day and walked there from Marylebone. She was visibly shocked; it was about an hour and a half, but it was almost 30°C out and I didn’t fancy taking the sweat-box that is the tube.

I find walking gives you a better feel for a place compared to popping in and out of the underground like a whack-a-mole. Maybe in the future I’ll become magnetized to the tube like a regular old Londoner, but that’s yet to happen. Being fair though, the weathers been great.

There’s so much good food. Brood, Borough Market. (July, 2020)

There is Something for Everyone

I’ve spent the last few weeks exploring my new surroundings and honestly there is just stuff to do in every direction. Feeling bohemian? Hackney, Shoreditch and Camden Market. World renowned tourist sites? Check. A massive choice of cuisine from everywhere you could possibly think of? Another check. Graffiti? Waterloo. Seeing how the other half live? Kensington, Chelsea, Hampstead Heath and Richmond. Parks? Yep. Hills? No – actually. But the beaches of Brighton aren’t too far away!

Blood sucking corporate buildings with no character?


Canary Wharf is Terrible

I don’t care if it’s the safest part of London. I’ve never seen a place so devoid of life and filled to the brim with commercial boredom. Every shop is a chain (there are bloody Prets everywhere) and it’s all so grey. The only thing that isn’t grey is this golden egg for some reason.

Somebody call the Easter Bunny. Canary Wharf. (July, 2020)

There is more personality in a lump of cement-coloured clay than Canary Wharf. London is packed with so much culture, so why would you choose to live in the one part that doesn’t have any? Nah, pull it down and try again lads.

No offence if you live there, its just really not for me. I bet you’ve got killer views of the good parts of London from those skyscrapers though.

In conclusion, I’m really enjoying my time in London so far. You can only get so much of a feel for a place so big in a hand full of visits. I’ve barely even scratched the surface of the city and it feels like I’ve done nothing but walk around since I’ve been here. Long may it continue!

Now, I’ve got a hankering for a soy vanilla iced latte from a Pret in Canary Wharf.


PS. After a quick Google search it turns out there are 237 Prets in London (back in 2018 at least, so they’ve probably carried on breeding). Told you.

How stunning is Little Venice? (July, 2020)

Dear Lancashire, an Unplanned and Extended Visit

Alright che,

For me, living in Lancashire was never on the agenda. It was a region I had knowledge of as my family roots stem from Liverpool, a former chunk of the historic Lancashire region before it broke off and became Merseyside in 1974. Manchester too is formerly a part of the region, a city which has been the backdrop for many a night out.

Historic boundaries of Lancashire (Red), and the current county (Green)

Ever since I can remember, I’ve wanted to travel, live abroad and see as much of the world as possible. The county of Lancashire just wasn’t somewhere I’d felt inclined to visit. My impressions if you’d asked me a year ago? Rain. Despite learning much more about the area and its rich culture and history, I don’t think I was that far off.

According to the Telegraph, Preston is the 7th rainiest area in the United Kingdom. The Met Office also claim that on August 10th, 1893, 32mm of rain hammered down on the town within five minutes. Soggy.

I ended up in that waterfall (the area, not the time it happened – this would be a much more interesting article) by complete accident. Some family issues meant I left my home in Chester and after spending a great few months in Ellesmere Port living at my Grandads, I eventually moved up to Blackburn to be with my girlfriend where she was staying with her Dad.

It’s the guy that sang the A-Team! (Royal Oak, Blackburn, September 2019)

Blackburn itself doesn’t have the greatest reputation, but I really enjoyed my half a year living in the former mill town. After all, it had been home for King Kenny when he won the Premier League with Rovers back in 1995. If it was good enough for him, it was good enough for me. While north of the West Pennine Moors I performed my first open mic at the royal Oak in Pleckgate, looked for witches as I climbed Pendle Hill and was able to connect with my girlfriend’s family – and for that I’m truly grateful.

A standard Lancashire advert. Source: shittyfoodporn on Reddit (lol)

Blackburn also opened my eyes to some of the strangest northern scran I’d ever seen (that I would admittedly come to love). The best of all being the ‘butter pie’, a savoury pastry with the contents of potato, onion, and lashings of real butter. I was first served this delicacy piping hot within a ‘barmcake’, or a bread roll for those of you outside the county borders. Call it what you want, a ‘Wigan Kebab’ or a ‘Pie Barm’ – I had no idea how to eat the thing at first. I’d ‘tret’ myself to a Greenhalgh’s one afternoon and attempted to eat it as I walked through a ‘ginnel’. One bite in and my palms burned as the sloppy buttered potato clung to them like napalm, I couldn’t have looked like more of an outsider if I’d tried. I even sounded like one as my Cestrian accent bellowed from my ‘cakehole’ with “ooos” and “aaahhs” as my hands scorched that cold October day.

Fried Spam as an addition to the already perfect full English breakfast was another I failed to understand on first listen. Firstly, for the addition itself, secondly, because of the broadness of the Blackburn accent. My first month I think those who knew me only thought I could say the words ‘what’, ‘sorry’ and ‘pardon’. After trying it for myself, I can safely say Spam is a more than welcome replacement for when your ‘binlid’ is lacking sausage, but you do have to swat away some strange looks from elsewhere on this floating island we call Britain.

Oh, and on the 3rd day, God said let there be gravy. However, due to its viscosity it failed to leave the north, and so the Northerners celebrated as they were pretty chuffed it never reached the Southern fairies. They could stick to their jellied eels.

In the end we decided to leave Blackburn so I could be closer to where I worked. I had a job on the docks in Preston and it was taking me nearly two hours to get to work everyday (when Northern Rail decided to turn up) and another couple of hours back. In response to this we moved to Bamber Bridge, a wee urban village south-east of Preston. The obscure name of the place translates from the Old English “Bēam and Brycg”, which means ‘Tree-Trunk Bridge’. I never saw one and the name still puzzles me now.

Bamber Bridge Train Station, 1963 (Source: Ben Brooksbank)

Bamber Bridge had been home to the American 1511 Quartermaster Truck regiment in the Second World War, which was racially segregated. All the soldiers in this regiment were African American, except the officers in power who were white. Fighting broke out between the officers and infantrymen in the ensuing tensions of the 1943 Detriot race riot, the African American infantry with the local townsfolk on one side – the white American military police on the other. The violence actually started at the pub we lived next to while we were there. Today, it is known as the ‘Battle of Bamber Bridge‘. It is a scene that could be reported on yesterday as the Black Lives Matter protests roll on. Go Brig* for being on the right side of history!

*Brig – a term the locals use for the village of Bamber Bridge.

The village is perfectly situated next to Cuerdan Valley park, an absolutely stunning area of greenery, trees and rivers that is 100% a side-effect of the aforementioned rainfall in the area. For as much as people criticise the rain, it really does birth some stunning scenery. I don’t think I’ve inhaled cleaner air or drank fresher water from taps. Where I grew up each sip was followed by the unpleasant sting of limescale, even after a filter through the Brita.

Cuerdan Valley Park in a rare moment of sun (March, 2020)

The town of Preston also has some killer nightlife. It is the only place I’ve seen where you can get a Tango Ice Blast cocktail. Odeon, if you’re reading this – make some notes.

The Ribble Valley and the Fylde coast also contain some fantastic spots if you’re ever around the area. Clitheroe, Downham and Lytham are some of my favourites. Not to mention the historically significant Lancaster.

The time came for us to move down south to enter the London lottery, but these slices of Lancashire will live on within me. Sure, it might not be the most eye-opening location of my life story, but for me it was just as much of an adventure.

Live life like a tourist and you’ll never be with ‘owt’ to do.

Ta-ra for now!


music travel

A Love Letter to King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut

Back in 2011, stressed during my GCSE’s but taking the first grasps at young adult life, I was sat in one of the media studies classrooms at lunch. Me and my friend Ryan were looking at upcoming concerts in Manchester. I’d wanted to start attending gigs regularly now I’d turned 16, being situated in Chester placed me in the perfect position to travel to both Liverpool and Manchester to see my favourite bands.

That day I was searching for emo-gamechangers Madina Lake, their album ‘Attics to Eden’ had been released a couple of years prior and the lead single ‘Never Take Us Alive’ had made the rounds on my iPod Nano since its release. I remember downloading the song illegally using some sort of YouTube to MP3 website like every other teenager at the time, in a forgotten world without Spotify and Apple Music.

The band that started it all, Madina Lake (unugunu, Wikimedia Commons)

Searching for the band on Google, we were met with their upcoming performance in Glasgow, at an amazingly named venue by the name of ‘King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut’. At the time I gave it a raised eyebrow, intrigued by its name, before ending our search due to the impending school bell. Little did I know however, that this was the beginning of a lifetime obsession with a venue in a country I had never even visited.

Since then, I have always noticed the venue on the touring schedules of the bands I loved, every time the name sparked my interest. Why did this North African Pharaoh have a venue in Scotland? What the hell was a ‘Wah Wah’? But most importantly – when could I go?

For those of you unaware, King Tut’s is a small cult venue situated on St. Vincent’s street, a short walk from the centre of Glasgow. Founded in 1990, the 300-capacity venue takes its name from a Lower East Side New York club and experimental theatre space from the 80’s. That iconic club hosted the likes of the Blue Man Group, whereas the one this side of the Atlantic boasts The Strokes, Biffy Clyro and Beck.

The original King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut in the Lower East Side of NYC (Lupo Rodriguez, Pinterest)

The venue has been voted as BBC Radio 1’s ‘Best Small UK Venue’ and NME named it “quite possibly the best small venue in the world”. It was even the location for Liam Gallagher’s ‘Come Back to Me’. My love for the idea of going to King Tut’s faded after a decade of life, until one weekend last December when I briefly mentioned my former infatuation to my girlfriend in jest. I didn’t think anything of it, but she did – the next thing I knew she’d booked me tickets to go on my birthday.

It was to see a band called IDER, a ‘post-genre’ indie band consisting of Lily Somerville and Megan Markwick. I’d never heard of them, but I didn’t care – that’s how you discover new music anyway. I was beyond excited. It’s still up there with one of the most genuine and thoughtful gifts I’ve ever received.

I was finally going to King Tut’s!

The walls of the blokes toilets in King Tut’s. The first and last time I’ve taken a photo in a bathroom. (February, 2020)

Before I waffle on, Glasgow as a city itself is phenomenal. The people are ace, I got rinsed in a comedy club after being selected as the ‘most Scottish looking person in the room’, only to hit the host with my brand of Cestrian English. He said to me, “Ginger and English? I don’t think you’re liked much up here or down there”. Bruised ego aside, the city is great – don’t let its reputation stop you from going. The ‘Dear Green Place’ is more than it’s cracked up to be if you give it a chance.

The venue itself is everything I wanted it to be and more. From the enormous logo outside, to the toilets plastered with signed setlists from gigs long ago. They have their own ‘King Tut’s Lager’ on tap, which was decently potent (especially after 4 of them). I was Captain Ahab, the venue Moby Dick – I’d fall into the water and let it take me wherever it wanted me to go. Luckily, it didn’t take 3 days to chase the venue down.

King Tut’s revels in its history. It bursts with an array of artwork, posters and instruments that preceded its famous steps; each one archiving the artists who performed there that year into its very foundations. A million memories condensed into a single footstep, only to capture a million more in the next.

The famous steps at King Tut’s (February, 2020)

The atmosphere buzzed for IDER. After getting acquainted with the aforementioned lager and being ‘that guy’ who took a photo of the stairs (I hate myself too) we spilled into the venue. Split between the bar, stage, and a raised mezzanine we we’re engulfed in the shadows of your typical venue – the features of Charlotte’s face only visible by the oozing red stage lighting as we waited patiently for the band in its eager glow.

IDER were ace.

If you’ve ever attended venues like Parr Street Studio 2 in Liverpool, or The Ritz in Manchester – you’ll know there are certain venues that were built for music. This is one of them. The London duo’s voices bounced from the walls as they performed. They were that good that their current Wikipedia image is from the gig that we were at (see photo).

The name IDER comes from the character that “manifests itself when [they] harmonise“, although intended as a joke they named themselves after – this genuinely rang true. They intertwined melodies and swapped instruments with ease, it felt like a fever dream.  It was one of the best performances I had seen for a long time, in arguably one of the best gig venues I’d ever attended. As a bonus, the night concluded with the best drunk Five Guys burger on our way back to the hotel.

Give them a listen if you’ve got a spare 3 minutes and 45 seconds.

So, whether you’ve got plans to visit Glasgow already or if you’re travelling for King Tut’s itself, it is 100% worth the visit. This might be the decade of bias talking, but I think it might be my favourite venue in the country. Although I’ve got NME and Radio 1 on my side so I can’t be too far from the truth.


And I definitely didn’t buy a commemorative mug.

In the words of Liam Gallagher – “Why don’t you come back to me?”

I’m sure someday I will.

personal travel

My Experience with Catalan Independence

In late September 2017 I decided to take a leap and moved to what was then, and still is, Spain. I hadn’t done much research before I went; I just knew that I was moving to a city a couple of hours outside of Barcelona. I was ecstatic. Being 21 and a recent graduate, the years following the completion of my degree were what I had been looking forward to for some time. Free from the confines of Britain, I was ready to explore somewhere new, exciting, and sunny.

Following a brief flirtation with the idea of moving to Japan, I decided to take the plunge and move to the sangria state to teach English. This was because if things went wrong I was closer to home, similar to when students leave for a new city and don’t move too far away – so they can come back easily and get their mums to do their washing.

After arriving at Barcelona El Prat Airport and partaking in the initial training, all the teaching assistants were scattered across the Catalonia region. A handful of us and our bags were then placed in a tin-can with wheels and shipped off northward, to the city of Lleida. Some noteworthy things about the city of Lleida: It is located in what is called the ‘Catalan Central Depression’, La Seu Vella is one of the most stunning and dominating pieces of architecture I’ve ever seen and that it’s the city were San Miguel is brewed and bottled. I also discovered that drinking San Miguel is looked down on by the locals; Estrella or Voll-Damm are seen in a much better light and are considerably more potent. Another thing, in Catalan the pronunciation of the city is ‘YAY-dhah’, but due to articulation issues in the other regions, the city is called Lérida in Spanish.

The first day with my new host family (I don’t wish to mention their names, but they are incredible people who made me feel like their eldest son and we still keep in touch to this day! Et trobo a faltar) was encapsulated by a ‘correfoc’ or in English ‘fire-run’, in the city centre of my new home. Let me tell you right now, correfoc’s are a health and safety nightmare. People ran around dressed as the devil, flailing around enlarged flares on sticks above their heads until they burst into flames. The crowd that watched these events are urged to get as close as possible to the ‘creatures’ and run with the fire themselves. It was carnage and I loved it.

A castell mid-construction in central Lleida (September, 2017)

We had also witnessed a ‘castell’ during the day of these celebrations, this involved adults and children stacking themselves on top of each other in public places – building a human castle for the audience. It was capped off by an ‘enxaneta’ climbing to the top and reaching an open hand to the sky, before they all gradually dismantled themselves back to the ground below.

The region was insane, I had never seen anything like it. I was immediately hooked.

The next day I awoke under the pretence of a rest day. It had been non-stop since my arrival and I was excited to embrace a lazy Sunday from the comfort of my new bedroom. That did not happen. I was informed that we would be attending the kid’s roller hockey game that morning in the small village of Juneda. Sure, why not – my host-siblings were very excited for me to come, so how could I say no?

Roller hockey is actually one of Catalonia’s national sports. Barcelona has won 19 European League Championships with a ruthless domination, not unlike the world-renowned football team. I watched as kids a quarter of my age glided around the arena on their roller skates with such a finesse I could only dream of, screaming in Catalan as their parents roared them on. I would later attend a hoquei game for the local team in Lleida, I was nearly smashed in the face with a ball and I got to pound the fan-drum to the beat of the vivacious crowd. 10/10 would do again. Following the game, I was told that we were going ‘to vote’.

“To vote for what?”

“Per la independència!”

This was the 1st of October 2017, the day of the Catalan independence vote. The Spanish government had declared the vote illegal and unconstitutional, warning many people away from the polling stations. This resulted in many pro-Spanish and pro-Catalan voters who feared the backlash not turning up.

Catalan flags draped over a building in Juneda (October, 2017)

The polling station itself had a strange atmosphere. The children ran around playing with tubs of fairy liquid blowing bubbles, while the adults were fearful of the police as they filled out their voting slips. A large barbecue was taking place, serving traditional Catalan meat like ‘butifarra’ and we were drinking from traditional ‘porróns’. If you aren’t aware, governments find acts of protest with traction irritating and normally try to quash them with force. Local farmers had tactically parked their tractors in the middle of the roads blocking entry to the polling station. There were murmurs that the police were going to arrive, but luckily, they never came to where we were.

It was a different story in the main population centres: Barcelona, Tarragona, Girona, and Lleida. We were watching the evening news about the vote; the numbers had been 92% in favour of independence. Over 2 million votes had been cast in favour of becoming an independent state – it is worth noting that the population of the region back in 2017 was 7.4 million. 43% of Catalans were able to vote in these elections, despite enforced polling station closures and excessive force from the Spanish police. The vote had been disregarded as a terrorist rebellion and police in riot gear had stormed cities. There are videos of them pushing elderly people down sets of stairs and hitting protestors with batons. One video showed these police officers attacking voters at the doctor’s surgery just outside of the flat we lived in.

Raw: Over 760 Injured by Police in Catalonia (Associated Press, 2017)

Walking down the streets of Lleida at night in the weeks following was deafening. Catalan independence flags were draped over balconies – men, women and children stood every night at 9 o’clock bashing pans together in protest of the Spanish police and their government.

The Catalan regional police, the Mossos d’Esquadra had allowed the vote to go ahead – which was what led the National Police Corps and the Civil Guard to enter the region and ‘take back control’. 893 civilians were injured that day. Spanish police action was heavily condemned by many players of the international community; including the Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel and SNP Leader Nicola Sturgeon, yet others including Boris Johnson failed to condone the violence…

Three years on, the situation remains largely unchanged. The leader of the independence party Carlos Puigdemont is currently living in self-imposed exile in Belgium, knowing that he will be tried and arrested should he ever return to Spain. Nine Catalan independence leaders were sentenced for their roles in the 2017 referendum on counts of sedation and crimes against the Spanish state. In turn this triggered more protests during October 2019 that are continuing today, slowed only by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Civil rights protests and independence movements are like tubes of toothpaste, when they are squeezed out, they are impossible to put back in. Especially when there are massive cultural differences between the region and their governments. Bull fighting is an internationally known form of entertainment enjoyed by the Spanish, yet it was banned in the region on the 1st of January 2012. The residents speak Catalan as a first language, and it is rare for two Catalans to converse in Spanish. Gastronomically, the region is more alike to France than it is to Spain. For more examples of how the culture in this region is so unique, go back and read this article again. This is a country/region/autonomous area close to my heart and whether within in Spain or outside of it, I just want the people to be treated right.

Visca Catalunya.

A banner at the Copa Del Rey match between Lleida Esportiu and Real Sociedad (Camp d’Esports, October 2017)

The Politics of AID Work in Rural Tanzania

This blog was originally written in October 2018 and submitted to Raleigh International to be published on the blog section of their website. It was at their request that I wrote this blog, they never got back to me.

Bwawani is a village situated in the Kilombero area of Morogoro District, Tanzania. It was formerly a part of the much larger Nyamweze township. However, leadership issues in this very large community led to it breaking off into three separate villages – Bwawani, Nyamweze and Kiberege – back in 2013, with no jurisdiction over each other.

The border gore that exists between Belgium and the Netherlands in Baarle-Nassau-Baarle Hertog.

Now the village is stuck in a strange border situation where on one side of the road you’re inside one village, but when you cross it, you’re in another. An example I could compare this to would be the strange borders between the Netherlands and Belgium at Baarle-Nassau/Baarle-Hertog, where some houses are even split between the two independent nations. Luckily, the Schengen area allows this to be a non-problem, but my thoughts go out to the homeowners if the EU ever disbands.

Back to Bwawani, and these fledgling villages that were struggling to rally behind their new leaders. The group of volunteers that I worked in, Charlie One, worked in the ‘Kiberege School’ – which itself was a source of conflict between these communities, as both the schools namesake and Bwawani claimed ownership of the establishment. The school was initially built as a teaching and rehabilitation centre for the nearby Kiberege prison, but a government decree turned it in into a place of education for children. The school still had memories of prison ownership with its iron barred windows and chicken wire but was juxtaposed by the vibrant nature and creativeness from the excitable children. It is worth noting that the 40-minute walk from Bwawani to the school was through the prison fields where the inmates worked, fields that my Charlie walked through from Monday to Friday for five weeks. Most days there were no inmates working, but when there was, they would often shout, beg, or attempt to run over. Interacting with prisoners is illegal in Tanzania, so we just had to keep our eyes forward and walk. This was made all the more difficult as prisoners were hired to actually dig the hole for the septic tank of the new teachers’ toilets, little more than five metres from a classroom of bustling children.

Our toilets halfway through the project. Bwawani, Tanzania (October, 2018).

A village that formerly had two cycles of volunteers, the community of Bwawani was already educated on the benefits of hand washing and hygiene, with the Village Executive Officer (VEO) enforcing a TSH50,000 fine if your home did not contain hand washing facilities with soap.

The school was also well versed on the dangers of poor food preparation and personal hygiene. Countless songs regarding these important messages could be heard echoing from the classrooms. Strangely for Kiberege school, the toilets Raleigh had spent six months and two volunteer cycles constructing remained unused and were beginning to fall into disarray.

We in Charlie One believed this to be strange. The children, so excitable and informed on the issues of hygiene were still using the old and decrepit drop-hole toilets that lacked any sort of sanitation. All the while the new and freshly built, flushable latrines fell to the wayside, it made little sense. Why were we here?

After a week in Bwawani things became increasingly clear, we had heard murmurs from the students that the teachers were not allowing them to use the toilets. This was despite the teachers informing us that the opposite was true, that the students were refusing to use them due to being “intimidated” by their new and shiny design. Which was strange considering the students had been using them daily since we had arrived.

Charlie One with their host families in Bwawani (October, 2018).

The day of our first School Management Committee (SMC) meeting arrived, and everything came to a head, like a lifting of fog. The headteacher and the committee denied all knowledge of an opening ceremony for the new toilets and claimed that they had never received ownership of them, despite being in the presence of our District Operations Manager Kim, a team leader on the last cycle who had worked on these exact toilets.

This was all in-fact false information. Infuriated by this, Kim informed the red-faced SMC that she was present and led those events herself. Faced with this, they admitted their defeat and confirmed that they had not touched the toilets in one year (the reason for this was unclear and lost in translation, and I do not wish to assume incorrectly – but we were building a set of teachers’ toilets for this particular school so I will leave the assumptions to you dear reader). As a result of this, the toilets had become infested with maggots and were slowly reaching the point of becoming unusable. In the end, after the previous (and supposedly final) cycle had left, the SMC had virtually disbanded and the district leaders that were bestowed with checking up on the cubicles had failed to do so. The school had not been held accountable for their lack of toilet maintenance and they had essentially been left to rot.

We were all gobsmacked at this revelation, but we were on the ground here for another four weeks and work had already started on the new toilets. These kids could not be left with the toilets in the state that they were, and the surrounding community were still engaging in traditional acts surrounding women’s menstruation that no longer had a place in modern society (one of which will be detailed later). Whatever the motivations of the school organisation we still had a job to do.

We held a community ‘Action Day’ to discuss issues surrounding water and sanitation hygiene, with particular focus on the normality of women’s menstruation health management (MHM). Over 300 people attended and backed the cause. Epitomising this was our men’s MHM corner; we had the idea to have two ‘corners’ during our Action Day and take shifts occupying them. The purpose of these were for men and women who had questions on MHM to come and privately ask us advice and guidance.

Action shot of me very stressed at the Action Day – Bwawani, Tanzania. (October, 2018).

During my shift, a man approached me and my Team Leader Sarya and asked us whether female periods were healthy. We explained to him their normality for all girls around the globe. His face was visibly shocked; he informed us that he had been locking his daughters in a ‘red-room’ for seven days a month and not letting them out until their menstruation period had concluded. This is because in certain segments of rural Tanzania there are beliefs that ovulating women can make men impotent. These opinions are influenced by decades of enforcement, tradition and cultural differences. It was not his intention to mistreat these young women, but to protect the ongoing heritage and future generations of his family. It shows that even a simple conversation can make a massive difference to a domino effect of people. He swore to us that he would never do anything like that again.

With this fresh in our minds we took this to the SMC at Kiberege school, we told them the importance of MHM, and they allowed us to teach it in their school with the additional support of the parents. We also stressed the importance of a consistently clean and monitored MHM room (one was constructed with the toilets) and the importance of hygiene materials in the schools such as soap, toilet brushes and bleach, to which they agreed. Things were finally beginning to look up.

It was around this time that nearly all of my teams work boots were stolen. During the night they were kept in the locked storage room of the school. Fortunately for me, I had taken mine home that evening to clean them. The next day we returned to see no signs of struggle or forced entry, the padlock was still on the door and all the school’s belongings were still in place. Many of these boots were purchased by both my British and Tanzanian counterparts, and work had to stop for about a week until we could get replacements.

Community mobilisation meetings followed, we gathered up groups of elders, women and young adults to conduct in-village surveys on their current knowledge. We contacted local businesses to see what stock they supplied regarding hygiene. In Bwawani, there were few shops that supplied sanitary pads and puritabs, yet all of them stocked bars of soap and its powdered variant. We then invited all of these business leaders to a meeting at the school and openly encouraged the SMC to pursue business relations with them to keep their toilets stocked, because, and this was stressed – we were not coming back again.

The efforts we had made finally started sticking in the final few days of our project.

The opening ceremony of the new teacher’s cubicles – Bwawani, Tanzania (October, 2018).

This was worth pursuing at Kiberege school for the benefit of the children who studied there; the next generation always deserves a chance. The opening ceremony of our very own teachers’ toilets followed and was a complete success. We ensured that they had the keys and could not claim that they “didn’t have any”. We left Bwawani truly feeling that we had made a difference against all odds. We headed into our next adventure after a quick recharge in Morogoro. The next stop was Chimlata School in the Kongwa district of Dodoma.

Upon re-reading and re-editing this article I find myself frustrated at myself for not further pursuing what was going on under the surface at Kiberege School. However, the situation me and my colleagues were under was very difficult both physically and emotionally. After the departure of my team, the School Management Committee fell back into old habits, however this time there were repercussions from the now rejuvenated district and their passionate Village Environmental Officer. The headteacher of Kiberege school has since been sacked and replaced. Here’s hoping that their new hire places the children first, investing in their futures – rather than insisting on ‘business as usual’.

I truly believe that Raleigh International does fantastic work, but it does highlight the difficulties of AID work in third-world countries with regards to potential corruption. That is not even touching on the ‘white-saviour complex’.

But that is a topic for another day.

Finally, I just want to give a massive thank you to Amy Pragnell, Phoebe Nelson and Bryn Williams for their invaluable assistance in writing this blog post. You guys rock.