Wednesday, November 23, 2016

A new Trip Advisor Review!

We used to have Trip Advisor reports  every other week but now we are lucky if we have a couple of visitors a month to the hotel, so this five star review was a nice surprise! And particularly since the staff managed this all on their own.
“A wonderful place”
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed yesterday NEW via mobile
We visited Djenne and stayed at Djenne Djenno. The place is by far the best in town. The rooms are very nice, with a mixture of traditional decoration and modern comfort.
The food was very good and the staff very welcoming.
Stayed November 2016, travelled with friends 


 And that was not all today! There was also a nice Tweet from a happy Australian MaliMali customer:

PM Newton

Nov 23
Gorgeous cool cotton for summer + bag. All the way from @MaliMaliSophie in Djenné to me. (Cats not included)
Thank you!

Monday, November 21, 2016

A Musical Medley

London showed me its  most disagreeable face as I landed at Heathrow on Friday:  grey skies, drizzle and temperatures which appeared  sub-zero to me.
Nevermind. There were lots of consolations, mainly of a musical kind because I am staying with  David and Jeremiah and that  always turns into a musical Odyssey. This time it started with my watching a  DVD of Don Giovanni from Glyndebourne at night alone since my hosts were out somewhere. But this inspired us and  the following  morning  we dug into David's inexhaustible library of DVDs and played all the greatest performances from Don Giovanni: the best Donna Elviras and the best Donna Annas of all time etc and what David called the 'Duel of the Basses': the final of Don Giovanni with the Commendadore, Leporello and Don Giovanni himself.
 I  dragged myself away from this aural feast  reluctantly only to plunge directly into another one of a very different kind: Saturday afternoon live Bebop at the Elgin in Ladbroke Grove.  I met up with my old friends Pia, Andrew and Yonatani at this this legendary Ladbroke Grove watering hole which is just across the road from my flat, now let. We saw the Steve Fishwick/Alex Garnett Quartet. Pia is an expert at finding interesting performances at fun venues. We have all seen the trumpet playing Steve Fishwick before, that time it was in another venue that Pia found many years ago...

 I  have a store of special places in my memory: places  far out of the ordinary; places which are so unusual that only a fabulous reality could possibly make them up-one's imagination would never be inspired enough. I call them  my seven wonders of the world. One such place was called  BB's.
We would all meet up once a week at Liverpool Street station then get on a train which took us to Forest Gate, far  away in East London suburbia. We would walk down an unassuming street like many others lined with small terraced houses in this somewhat down at heel neighbourhood until we reached a house which had a sign above its entrance advertising  "The East London Dancing Club". We had arrived. Inside  the host greeted us, BB, a Jamaican devoté of Jazz, Blues and just about any other music which could be performed in his house- the whole place  was turned into a club where we saw New York Tap Dancers as well as Bebop with Steve above; fabulous blues singers from Croydon and  jazz pianists from Chicago. I do not think the performers were paid, but nevertheless everyone wanted to perform there. Half way through the evening BB would serve up a generous buffet of good Jamaican fare, Jerk Chicken and the like. One paid whatever one wanted to contribute- I remember once I had forgotten to bring cash but BB just told me to 'dig in' anyway.
 BB has now left this world alas (Pia and Andrew went to his well frequented funeral) but he and his wonderful East London Dancing Club certainly lives in our memories for ever.

The music did not stop at the Elgin on Saturday. I had to rush on to the ENO where I was meeting David an Jeremiah once more at 6pm and we saw a performance of 'Lulu', an opera by Alban Berg based on the 'sex tragedy' plays of Wedekind. All dissonance and German Expressionism- fabulous sets by William Kentridge. Musically not quite as impossible as I had imagined, in fact I liked it although I felt it could have benefited from some editing... too long. David wrote this review:

And that was not all by any means on the Musical front.  The following morning I met Andrew and Clare at sung Mass at Our Lady of Victories, Kensington which featured organ Prelude by Bach, Exultate Deo by Palestrina, Our Father by Rimsky -Korsakov, Agnus Dei by Mozart and Toccata by Egil Havland.
Then we all went back 'home' to Jeremiah and Davids for lovely Sunday lunch (pork with crackling!)  where more music flowed: A friendly argument had erupted: who is the greatest? Leonard Cohen or Bob Dylan? All the four others at the lunch ganged up on me and had the bad taste of believing Leonard Cohen should have been the one to receive  the Nobel Price instead of Dylan. (Now, I do like Leonard Cohen too of course but even he himself realized he was in the shadow of Dylan...) Anyway, we staged a 'duel' between the two greats. Two numbers were to be played by each. The Leonard Cohen Camp chose one called 'Joan of Arc' and one 'Anthem'.   I chose 'Hard Rain' to represent Dylan as well as 'Lay down your Weary Tune'.   The outcome was unclear since we all stuck to our convictions...

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Some corner of a Foreign Field/That is forever England

For the first time I have spent Remembrance Sunday in Bamako, where I  took part in a moving ceremony at the Christian cemetery given by  Alice Walpole, the new British Ambassador (with Lt Col E Coward above). Wreaths were laid a  at the grave of a British soldier who served and died in the second world war. His  body was repatriated to Mali since his parents lived in Bamako.
The ceremony was followed by a reception at the British Embassy Residence.

Evelyne Decamps the new French Ambassador was very chatty and friendly and  said she was worried about my being in Djenné alone and in her view very much a kidnapping target. ( I am surprised and flattered that she even remembered who I am!) Yes, perhaps I am a target, but I must have been that for many years now...

I have spent a couple of lonely weeks in Djenné when much has happened on the world stage: a new American president was elected for one thing. This turned out to be  a very different occasion to the last time I stayed up all night to watch an American election at Hotel Djenné Djenno... that was eight years ago and the hotel was full of tourists. There were different nationalities watching in different rooms- I was with the American Peace Corps in the  Kassonge Room and we watched CNN. The bar was for the French and the Peul Suite was were the Italians were watching: A joyous occasion. At four o clock in the morning when it was clear that Obama had won an Italian woman experienced a surfeit of joy and ran into the garden and grabbed the night watchman and kissed him on the mouth. Everybody's choice of president was elected;  Keita was still well and life was sweet .. Now I am tired of  of being horrified about the result so we shall just pass over it.

What else? We had a lecture  for the manuscript owners who have entrusted their manuscripts to the Djenné Manuscript Library by Saadou Traoré our new manuscript expert who was explaining what he has found of particular interest in the manuscripts: there is plenty. I was particularly excited by a manuscript from November 1755 which talks about the shaking of the earth: this was the Lisbon Earth quake which was felt as far as Djenné! More about this shortly on the Library Facebook page.

 I am on my way to London in a few days time where I will have my small heart operation.
I also need to say a big  thank you to those kind and generous readers of this journal who have come to the rescue of Malimali Projects!  Because of  recent donations we are now able to continue with our monthly support to the adult literacy class, the English class; Madame Koita's orphans  etc. at least for a few more months.  We are also able to sponsor one more calligraphy competition at the Djenné Manuscript Library! Hurrah and thanks!

Tuesday, November 01, 2016

Well, Blow me down...