Tuesday, 30 November 2010


Today the Mancub and I went to playgroup. He loves being at new houses with new toys! And he's getting gradually more sociable too.

We got home just before the heavens opened and rain torrented down. See the lake that was once our lawn...

This is really good news. We've hardly had any rain so far this short rainy season and the farmers and herders really need it.

It seemed an appropriate afternoon to stay at home and boil the Christmas puddings. But it's not very exciting cooking something you're not going to eat for almost 4 weeks, so we made fairy cakes too. And what's the best part of baking?

licking the spoons and bowls of course.

I then got on with spreading melted chocolate onto the florentines I made yesterday while the kids headed off to play. One of the lovely things that has happened over the last 6 months or so is that they play more and more happily together. Not all the time of course... there's plenty of sibling annoying too. But they can entertain each other quite happily for an hour or so most days. Today it just took a cardboard box and some cushions.

Monday, 29 November 2010

Party time again!

Another day, another birthday party! This time a family who are all friends and the birthday of their eldest, turning 5, who Kitty gets on very well with.

We played round and round the parcel again...

and the hunt the pieces game I brought - you may spot a theme here...

We also played sardines. Here is everyone else counting to 20 while Kitty hides

The cake was an awesome "where the wild things are" green extravaganza with no fewer than 4 indoor fireworks for candles

Other excitement today was the making of the Christmas puddings. Thank you Granny and Grandad for bringing out suet back in April. (Note to readers, top internet tip of replacing suet, when unobtainable, with butter, frozen and then grated, is all very well but leads to a very greasy falling-apart mess of a pudding, as we discovered last year). The Mancub helped me make the puddings but we all had a turn at stirring.

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Sayings of children

Looking back over our blog to see what we were doing this time last year (answer - dealing with house-renting and furniture aquisition issues and as yet blissfully unaware of the impending incarceration and immigration fiasco), I came across this blog entry detailing some sayings of the Mancub. So, now for some sayings of Kitty.

Having watched a bird disappear into the scrub "It's moved off into the vegetarian now"

While making Christmas cards with Christmas tree pictures "I'm just adding some Bulbuls " (Bulbuls, unlike the intended Baubles, are some of our common garden birds)

And not to be outdone, here's one from the Mancub this evening.

Me "so can only grownups drive the tractor?"
Mancub "only grownups and daddies"

and a lovely one from the 3 year old daughter of one of my friends here:

Kaia says 'I am going inside to get me some water'
Mum says, in teacher mode, 'I am going inside to get myself some water'
Kaia says 'good, you can come with me'

Saturday, 27 November 2010


For those of you who didn't have the time or inclination to look at our friend's website for photos of Mr B's birthday trip to Manyara Ranch last weekend, here are some higlights.

Manyara Ranch Nov. 20-22, 2010

Manyara Ranch Nov. 20-22, 2010

Manyara Ranch Nov. 20-22, 2010
Manyara Ranch Nov. 20-22, 2010

Manyara Ranch Nov. 20-22, 2010

Manyara Ranch Nov. 20-22, 2010

Manyara Ranch Nov. 20-22, 2010

Manyara Ranch Nov. 20-22, 2010

Manyara Ranch Nov. 20-22, 2010

Manyara Ranch Nov. 20-22, 2010

Manyara Ranch Nov. 20-22, 2010

Manyara Ranch Nov. 20-22, 2010

Manyara Ranch Nov. 20-22, 2010

Manyara Ranch Nov. 20-22, 2010

Manyara Ranch Nov. 20-22, 2010

Thank you R and I for allowing us to borrow your lovely pictures!

Christmas Fair and aeroplane party

Busy day today. Started with the Arusha Christmas Fair. One of the biggest social events of the year, a chance to buy Christmas presents and, for the kids, bouncy castles, face-painting, ice-cream and Father Christmas! He arrived on a tractor...

looking rather hot and adjusting his moustache. (He's not the REAL Father Christmas, says Kitty, just someone dressed up)

The Mancub liked him though!

and, while the presents he handed out were rather tacky (A key-ring?! said Kitty scornfully. That's for grown-ups!), each also contained a lolly, so it wasn't all bad....

So, having consumed very little in the way of real food for lunch but with fizzy drinks and ice-creams inside (and outside for the Mancub...) and lollies in hand, we continued on to the rest of the day's activities. Mr B was dropped off for a meeting (sporting some ice-cream-sticky fingers and a face-painted neck, thanks to cuddles from Kitty) and the rest of us headed off to another 3 year old's birthday party.

Lots of games were played, including "round and round the parcel" (according to the Mancub)

and the birthday cake was a triumphant effort, despite power having been off in that part of town for 100 hours over the last 10 days, - an airport, complete control tower, arrivals building, runway and aeroplanes piloted by several of the party children.

Friday, 26 November 2010

Parties and illness

The internet has been playing up all week, as those of you we have tried to skype will testify! So, here are some old pics from Monday afternoon when the kids and I were at a 3 year old birthday party! Lots of fun was had by all.

The Mancub had another ride on Posh Paws

Lovely biscuits with smarties on, or without smarties on after the birthday boy had swiped them!

Grandpa Pig and his train!

Hunt the 'jigsaw' pieces round the garden and make the picture

 a pinata

and happy splashing in the paddling pool - no photos as everyone in the altogether (children only I hasten to add). Very nice afternoon, only downer being Kitty still listless, after a slightly feverish, tired and appetite-less weekend. Refusing to go in the paddling pool or eat birthday cake, instead curling up on the rug under the pinata for a rest. She's still not right and was off school today. Very very tired. Just fighting a virus according to the doc. Hope it surrenders soon and hope she survives another 3 year old birthday party tomorrow.

Cushion Tower

The Mancub's new favourite game.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

More birthday pictures

Here are some more birthday weekend pictures from some of the friends who joined us. Note especially the cute spring hare photos, and that's a really nice Heuglin's Courser too. On their website (which also has lots of handy bird pics!), so follow the link...

Tuesday, 23 November 2010


Another very busy but fun few days involving 2 birthdays, a school play and a safari.

Kitty shot rapidly to stardom as the Little Red Hen in her school play on Friday after the leading lady went down with chicken pox. Kitty was, herself, going down with something and looked rather dopey throughout.
Mr B had headed off to Manyara Ranch on Wednesday, to earn us another free visit by adding to their bird list etc, so I had a manic couple of days without him procuring ingredients and creating a birthday cake, doing the school run, attending an evening school meeting, running Music Makers and packing up before finally heading off to join him straight from the school play on Friday lunchtime. We were stopped twice by Police on the way but the sight of Kitty still with her face paint on was enough to stop either of them bothering to look at our documents...which was just as well as I hadn't actually attached the new license disc or insurance disc onto the windscreen yet. (I have now!)

We had a lovely weekend at Manyara Ranch, with a few friends joining us to celebrate Mr B's birthday. We made the most of our time, arriving back home exhausted after two night drives followed by early morning starts. I managed a walking safari one morning, following fresh lion tracks but failing to find the lions, while Mr B and the kids stayed in camp watching the wilderbeest and zebra wander by and exploring the various animal droppings to be found. The impala midden was particularly impressive.

We had two lots of sundowners out in the bush and our night drives yielded 8 bat eared foxes, two aardwolves, a wild cat, lots of spring hares, slender-tailed night jars and a variety of owls [Verreaux's and Spotted Eagle Owls in the main]. We also took a daytime drive to the shore of Lake Manyara which was heaving with tens of thousands of [white] pelicans and plenty of [lesser and greater] flamingos, waders [little stint, Caspian plover, chestnut-banded plover, curlew sand, etc.], terns [whiskered, white-winged black and gull-billed] and a few [grey-headed] gulls.
The Mancub particularly enjoyed the dust.

[The other birthday was also photographed, but internet was playing up last night and Mama B aborted, so she'll have to finish off with those ones another time. Still, suffice to say it was a great birthday weekend. One to remember! And, btw, I did see the lions whilst out walking the day before the others arrived - including a huge male with the most extraordinary pale mane with a nice black streak across the top. Very impressive. And one night they killed a wildebeest right in front of the camp. Lots of activity there... And plenty of new birds for the ranch too.]

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Lecture on legal systems

Yesterday I (finally) got a call from my lawyers saying to come in and chat with the head honcho himself. Good news - though as my car was busy having it's windscreen fixed I had to jump on a pikipiki again and arrived looking pretty windswept! Still, no problem there - they're used to me by now. And then began a lecture in legal systems as a prelude to explaining where things currently stand. Apparently there are basically three types of law - common law (made by judges); civil law (codified) and (news to me, this one - any lawyer friends in UK operate this way?) administrative law. Administrative law apparently refers to legal powers retained by the government and civil service to enable government to function. So, I'm told, the decision of an immigration officer is as legally law (if that's possible) as that of a judge. And whilst judges can overturn administrative laws through the whole court system, it's not cheap or easy. So I'm told a wise lawyer will always try and tackle things administratively, which is what has been happening on my behalf up to now. And the good news is that a resolution is in place - I've even seen a letter saying I'm free to come and go and do my work as I please. But the problem comes because when administrative powers are very strong, they're open to a lot of interpretation. And in a place like Tanzania, that leads to a well known problem. The administrators are all over worked with a huge stack of paper in front of them, and somehow you have to get your papers to the top of the pile to get dealt with. So begins the patient widow approach - pester and pester and pester until you get somewhere (or at least until they let you into the office in the first place). And then persuade the official that your papers really should be dealt with. Now it turns out that the lawyers have employed someone in Dar on my behalf to sit in offices and be persuasive and that he has incurred some serious costs over the last four months whilst he's been doing this. Most of these are his time spent on a hard bench, or travelling around offices in Tanzania. Others are less defined. But the state of play is now that if we can pay our legal fees, I'll get that get-out-of-jail-not-exactly-free letter and all will be well. Which is good news. As for the personal fees of the lawyer and his associate who have been managing all this on my behalf, we agreed I'd teach them the common birds of lake Duluti, and that I'd put together a detailed and illustrated checklist of the birds of a large game ranch owned by the lawyer on the edge of Serengeti. Which should be fun! Anyway, it looks as though we have two choices really - to pay rather a lot of money and have everything finished, or to pay a slightly smaller sum of money to cover completely legitimate expenses and then to leave the country...

Monday, 15 November 2010

Home again

So we made it to the end of the workshop and celebrated with a nice long game drive taking in a new mammal for me: Roan Antelope

Very nice - shame they seem to be in decline just about everywhere. Another highlight was finding this rock sticking up, beautifully smoothed at the tip. Just how many rhino must have used this as their rubbing rock over the centuries - and when did it last get used in this way?

Then it was time for the long drive home. Different company on the way back, J. a birder who's been in Rwanda for the last year or so, but not so familiar with the dry country species. So we had lots of fun finding the various Serengeti endemics as we came through, and at one time sat enjoying views of a huge tom leopard in a fever tree, only to turn around and see a family of lion straight ahead! The seronera valley is certainly cat paradise (and we found a distant cheetah a bit further along too). We tried hard not to share lunch with various smaller creatures -
and found the vanguard of the migration just hitting the plains south of Seronera - great to see them doing what they're supposed to do - they'll be on the short grass before long again now, so optimal time to experience this wonder of the world!

And we were still making good time when a car speeding the other way flicked a rock straight through the windscreen. Ooops. Still, the modifications were useful for birding

From this point on we took things a bit slower - especially when following cars in front, or with cars passing the other way. By the time we got to the top of the Crater I was nothing but dust and there was no way to get back to Arusha before night, so we decided on an unscheduled stop in Karatu. And then on Sunday since we were going very slowly anyway (especially in the rain!), we decided to pass along the top of Manyara Ranch and stop in on a dam there as we went by. With some great birds there once again (lesser jacanas still in residence, but joined by African too, and an African Water Rail - a very rarely seen bird, etc., etc.) by the time we were passing the camp it was lunch time and we got dragged in there for lunch whilst another couple of showers passed. And then eventually we got back to Arusha safe and sound (if well rinsed) in time for Welcome Home Daddy cake!

Friday, 12 November 2010

On fences and animals

So the workshop continues well - we've had several long days thinking hard about savannah conservation and ecology - it's been great to learn from all the South Africans here about their perspective, and to open their eyes to some major differences between Southern and Eastern savannah ecosystems. We've had days packed with activity, thinking, talking, eating and birding. Most days I've met the guides at 6.15 for a birding trip, getting back at 7.30 for breakfast of whatever you happen to think might be possible (so far the only chilli sauce has been off the menu - one of the few items that WAS available at the village in Seronera!), then 8.30 start for thinking and arguing. We've settled on something describing the 10 greatest mistakes South Africa has made in managing their savannah landscapes that east Africa can still avoid (which is where fences come in - in the main East African parks are unfenced blocks contiguous with the surrounding land - all South African parks are fenced to keep animals (and animal disease) in, and people out. But that means South Africa has just about lost migratory systems, with all sorts of (largely unknown) impacts on what remains. Did you realise there was a 1,000,000 springbok migration in South Africa once upon a time? So showing those guys even the fragment of the Serengeti migration that's over this side of the park at the moment has been wonderful! And there are lots of other mistakes to mention too. Then we've had three-course lunches, followed by more or less coherent discussion (depending on the volume of wine consumed) and mostly ended up with a game drive in the evening stopping somewhere nice to enjoy very decadent sundowners, before coming back to a few more drinks before a slap-up meal lasting late into the night (and since I've volunteered to drive the paper writing process, I've then sometimes been up even later making sure we have things formulated for the next morning...). Very nice. I've had so much fun seing everyone's interests in the field - I think they've learnt some things about birds, I've learnt loads about grass and trees, and there's some very hot mammal folk around too. (Most of whom, even the Tanzanians, have been stunned by the sheer numbers of (resident) game on the plains here - the guys who've been around awhile have seen the topi herds (complete with loads of sandy coloured babies) and haven't seen herds like this for 30 years in the National Park. Amazing what happens when you really control poaching... Not bad to keep stumbling into lions and cheetahs too - though yesterday was entertaining as we'd earlier watched a male lion walk off from us into some thicker grass, lie down and disappear and then a few kilometers further on we all hopped out to look at some seedling acacias and I pointed out that the grassy patch we were walking towards was just as thick as the one we'd seen a lion vanish into when there was a loud growling and up jumped a huge male with a massive mane! Happily he ran off into the distance, but it made us all jump! Botanists seem even less observant and aware of dangers than birders!

Still, a few pictures to make you all suitably jealous...
 Savannah ecologists in natural habitat (but perhaps slightly more decadent than usual!)

 View from my computer...

It's tough in the bar...