Tuesday, 24 June 2008

Writing this in the glorious luxury of the economy-class cabin of Royal Air Maroc, having just finished the delicious in-flight meal. All around me the happy passengers are dozing quietly, snoring gently, or hawking and spitting into the airsick bags.

I am feeling somewhat jaded after eight days on the move, without spending two nights in the same hotel – irritatingly leaving a rather fine pair of trousers that I’ve become rather fond of somewhere along the way.

It all started last Monday in Geneva where we had been invited to make a presentation to the UNHCR. That is a big deal. The livestock strategy paper we’d been asked to produce for Chad has been somewhat stalled (could it be the three million pounds we reckoned it might cost?), so it was really exciting to get a chance to shake them all up a bit. Simon (our communications guy) and I had done a bit of work on a bi-lingual presentation and a bit of film (culled from our appearance on Channel 4 News and the BBC – but don’t tell them), and it looked pretty good. We got a pretty good reception too. We've always tended to find in our dealings with the powers that be that amazingly, (and from with people who’ve got more doctorates and degrees between them than Tony Blair’s had free holidays), they rarely twig that nomads and poor farmers in Africa depend on animals. Perhaps we’ve begun to lift the veil from their eyes.

Then I went on to Marrakech that night by Air France via Paris. Big Mistake.
France was on strike. And not helped by them being whupped by Italy in the football while I was trying to get from Charles de Gaulle airport across Paris to Orly.
Royal Air Maroc cancelled a couple of flights, and I finally crawled into bed in Marrakech at two-thirty the following morning.

Then we had an inspection tour of our various clinics and projects with a couple of trustees, before winding up in Tangiers, the other end of the country, on Saturday.
I must have driven at least a thousand miles in the three days, dodging the police speed traps wherever possible, or trying to schmooze out of trouble when caught.
It normally works – ‘Oh officer, was I really doing a hundred and fifty in an eighty zone ? Surely not ? And your country is so lovely – what a silly stupid little visitor to your lovely country I’ve been’.

‘Well, yes you were. But don’t you ever be so naughty again –now off you go’

Though I did come unstuck once.

Several years ago I was stopped coming out of Ben Guerir on the way down to Marrakech, doing some amazing amount above the speed limit.
One of Morocco’s finest invited me to step out of the car and requested my driving licence.
‘Your middle name is Ferguson I see’
‘Yes’ I replied.
‘That’s interesting’ he went on,’ I once had a Ferguson television’.
‘Yesss !’ I thought to myself, ‘That should do it’.
‘That was my uncle,’ I replied, ’he made televisions’.
‘Great!’ he grinned at me. ‘Revenge at last. You’re fined five hundred dirhams – the bloody thing never did work properly’.

So in Tangier yesterday we had our annual ‘out-of-this-world-experience’, when the original It-Girl, Annie Lambton, organises a cocktail party cum fundraiser on the roof of her house in the middle of a sumptuous garden. Tangier is famous of course for its, er, ’colourful’ people, and they come along in force for drinkies, and don’t seem to mind too much having their cash forcibly extracted from them.

Jeremy Hulme

No comments: