Monthly Archives: November 2021

Secretary’s Report 23rd November 2021

Architect and Author Richard Newman entertained the audience with reminiscences of his life back in 1974 when he was promoted from design work on Devonport Submarine Base to job hunting for his Practice in Qatar. Moving with his young family was always going to be a challenge but when coupled with bureaucracy and Arab customs it provided plenty of room for the humorous anecdotes which scattered his address.

Getting legal is always a priority for Expats on arrival in a new territory. Qatar was no exception and accompanied by Daniel his “Mr Fixit”, it started with a cursory but successful examination of Richard’s knowledge of the rules of the road followed by a visit to the licensing department. Not the driving licence as expected but, as in all Muslim States, for a liquor licence which allows “kaffirs” (non-believers in Islam) to purchase a designated amount of alcohol each month strictly for family consumption. In Richard’s case, his first month’s pick-up was 12 cases of lager, 6 bottles of gin, 6 bottles of whisky and 2 bottles of liqueur. This was probably just enough to face the daily rigours of life in the Gulf.

The second expat priority is to find a decent house in a good neighbourhood – not that simple when fresh in town. Richard decided to allow Daniel to do the necessary and followed his choice of a brand new house in a new development. Unfortunately, the utilities had not reached the chosen house but once again Daniel had a solution. At night he extended the sand markers for the services trench up to and inside the property and by the next week the Contractor had finished the water and electric installation quite oblivious of the trick.

Fortuitously for Richard, his arrival coincided with a design challenge for the Qatar Naval Base. He was able to charm the Director of Public Works with his knowledge gained from working on Devonport and he had his first commission almost before he had settled in. On the back of this award his Company decided to beef up their presence and it was then Richard’s turn to play the old hand and introduce the newbies to life in the Gulf.

A recurring theme of the mornings talk was sand which is an all-prevailing nuisance in Qatar but, in closing, Richard waxed lyrical about his enduring memories of climbing up to sit on the front face of a sand dune to watch the sunset. Magical !!

Reported by : RICHARD WRIGHT

Secretary’s Report 16th November 2021

It was a full house time today at the Forum as Members and their wives turned out to listen to Harry Satlova and his historical tour of Harrogate.

Chairman Peter Wilson opened the proceedings by posing a frequent question to which Harry might have the answer – “Where’s the Beach?” Harry was unable to give a definitive answer but did offer the suggestion that visitors may be misled by signs for the “Pier Head” to say nothing of street signs for that posh cul-de-sac – Beech Grove.

Back to Harry’s history lesson. York and surrounding areas were first settled by the Romans from the 1st to 4th centuries and later by the Vikings who arrived here from the 8th century using the Humber and Ouse to reinforce both their presence and trade. Harrogate must have been on their agenda because a cache of 700 Viking coins and jewellery was discovered in 2007 just a few of miles out of town. Known as the Harrogate Horde it was the most important find in England for 150 years

Moving on a few centuries we come to William Slingsby who, around 1570, first began investigating the many local springs and checking them for their curative properties. Some 200 years later, by 1777 4 springs ( 3 sulphur and 1 iron) had been captured into wellheads where they were dispensed for body wash and consumption. Following the success of the Belgium and French Spa Towns, entrepreneurs arrived in Harrogate and offered visitors assembly rooms where musical recitals, dances and lectures took place together with the enjoyment of the surrounding gardens and the beneficial effects of springwaters.

From 1830 to 50 there was a demand in Low Harrogate for buildings for bathhouses. Structures like The Crown and The Swan Inn were converted from farms and to keep up with the sophisticated treatments offered on the Continent the Royal Baths was constructed and opened in1871. It was followed in the 1890s by larger new-build hotels like The Majestic, The Cairn and The Grand supplemented by the expansion of the Swan and The Crown into fully-fledged Spa Hotels and attracting more than 250,000 visitors a year.

With a decline in the demand for spa treatments and an increased need for entertainment, local entrepreneurs led by engineering inventor Samson Fox commissioned the building of a theatre come assembly hall. The building designed by Frank Matcham constructed on the site of the former Cheltenham Pump Room was named The Kursaal and opened in 1903. Patriotically. at the end of World War 1, it was renamed The Royal Hall.

Harry’s tour continued for us past the Mercer Gallery into the Valley Gardens and through the Collonade on the Westside. This was once covered with a glazed roof and used as a walkway up to the Grand Hotel (Windsor House) and the Royal Baths Hospital. Both are now redeveloped into Offices, apartments and housing. Hopefully, the potential of the Collonade, sadly in some disrepair, will be recognised and upgraded to a useful civic amenity.

Harry opened the meeting up to audience participation which enabled an interesting exchange of views and reminisces. Starting with the Second World War, when Harrogate first became a hub for Government and Defence personnel who took over most of the Hydros. There was also a mention of an evacuation plan to move the Royal Family to Newby Hall and Winston Churchill to Grove House. This plan was abandoned when a single plane dropped bombs on the Majestic Hotel.

After 20 minutes of discussion, Michael Williams rose to thank Harry for a fascinating morning which was seconded by hearty applause from an appreciative audience.

Next Tuesday author Richard Needham will recount his adventurous times in the Gulf some 40 years ago when we will find out about “A cockroach on my shoulder”

Recorded by: RICHARD WRIGHT

Change of Speaker for 23rd November

Unfortunately, Veronica Bird who was due to speak to us on 23rd November is presently indisposed and has sent her sincere apologies. We wish Veronica well with a speedy recovery.

Therefore, on 23rd November we will now welcome Richard Newman who will speak to his Middle Eastern experiences of “Cockroach on my shoulder”

Posted by: RICHARD WRIGHT

Secretary’s Report 9th November 2021

Opening the meeting Chairman Peter Wilson welcomed Jin McPhail as the second Forum Member to occupy the stage this season.

Jim began by identifying Zambia as the focus of his talk and in particular the Eastern Province and Chipata District which he chose as his Project Area. He also identified the latent opportunities for growth through investment in Africa by comparing the GDP figures of $40,000 per capita in UK with $1900 for Africa as a whole and $1600 for Zambia. Particular development difficulties emanate from Zambia’s landlocked position and is surrounded by 6 other countries. Zambia is 95% Christian which has provided for a more stable political platform than many other African States. However, a complex and slow Administrative process has encouraged businesses to resort to “facilitation payments” which spreads corruption to many levels.

Back in 2000 Jim visited Zambia with his wife and saw the urgent need to improve conditions amongst these rural poor. Struck by
their experiences, and through their Christian beliefs, they could not walk away and started the ShareAfrica charity with a mandate of alleviating poverty in small rural communities.

The charity began by developing a strategic plan helping farmers to grow quality seeds and crops in what is a risky rainfall regime. They established centralised purchasing and marketing for the crops for which farmers receive a guaranteed and enhanced payment. This is possible because the crops are now held in purpose-built dry storage sheds until the market price is elevated, when they can be sold. The proceeds pay down the purchase price and fund reinvestment of the surplus into a food factory where the manufacturing of nutritious foods like peanut butter, corn flakes and soya products is carried out for free distribution or sale. Today, with an annual turnover of more than $2m, the charity is supporting 475 farming families, sponsoring 220 orphans, and paying school fees and food for many others whilst still managing to expand the project base by about 20% a year.

Jim went on to show some pictures of his farmers including one, who had in the space of a couple or so years made enough money to build a house, put a roof on it, buy beds to sleep on, curtains on the windows and all the kids going to school. That gives him great pride in the Project

Although the Charity is founded on Christian ethics, they do not sponsor any Pastor or Missionary activities. Instead, they purchase materials and equipment to help Christian communities self-build or fulfill their own particular needs in their parish. These could be boreholes, solar power, buildings, fertilisers and seeds, etc which are identified, implemented and monitored by a team of 21 employees working from an office in Chipata. This team is supplemented during the planting and harvest seasons with casual outreach workers. The Charity supports hundreds of small farms and, to reduce administration, five or six farms are linked together under a lead farmer who coordinates all their requests for inputs and advice.

An important element of assistance is to advance payment to farmers for a pair of Oxen and plough. This means that their area under cultivation can be increased by around 5 acres and earn a 200% payback in the first year. Similarly, they offer start-up funds to enable lady street traders to buy more stock and increase their turnover to buy more stock and begin repaying their loan after a few cycles.

Another element of the Project is to produce quality seeds to obtain maximum yields and also to develop different varieties to meet changing climate conditions and consumer demand. The Charity runs 2 purpose-built seed farms and sponsors 110 farmers who are trained to grow seeds for the Project. Income from selling surplus seed is very important because it commands a hefty price premium over the basic product and can be realised at any time to support cash flow.

Back in UK, Jim explained that he maintains a Small Enterprise Resource Programme software package which gives him and the UK Charity Commission complete accountability for all funds generated at home and a financial record of all activities and disbursements in Zambia.

Finally, Jim addressed his audience of retirees who he claimed harboured a lot of latent talent. Like himself, there are still things one could do to help the disadvantaged and his advice was” You’re not dead yet so it’s never too late to start”.

The Chairman commented on Jim’s presentation as amazing, passionate and practical. Further questions highlighted the audiences’ captured interest and admiration for all that had been described and achieved by SHAREAFRICA ZAMBIA.and Roger Bancroft reflected these views with a generous vote of thanks.

Recorded by RICHARD WRIGHT


Secretary’s Report – 2nd November 2021

Chairman Peter Wilson opened the meeting with the news that Thomas Clayton had resigned his membership of the Forum because of his deteriorating health. He recalled that Thomas joined in 2013 and had interests that were never exploited by the Forum. He is an accomplished artist and also published a booklet of his poems which is available on Amazon.

Roger Bancroft distributed details of the Menu choices for the Christmas Lunch which is priced at £27 for 3-courses and £24 for just 2 courses. He advised a deadline for acceptance by the end of November.

Members gave a warm welcome to today’s speaker and President of the Forum, Rev Moses John. His appearance had been delayed for 2 years because of the pandemic so, for us, this was his debut. His opening remarks left us a bit confused when he announced that actually, his surname was Moses and his given name John. However, he preferred to be Moses in line with his biblical calling!

Moses introduced us to India as a sub-continent more diverse than Europe with so many different languages and cultures. His home state in South India is called Tamil Nada (Home of the Tamils) with its capital Chennai. (formerly Madras). He was born a few miles south of Chennai into a Hindu family of the untouchable caste. As a child, his lowly status was brought home to him when a school friend invited him back home to play. When the parents returned they began to seriously scold the boy and asked Moses to leave. Later he learned that the parents had scrubbed the house down from top to bottom because they were of a higher caste and considered that Moses’ visit had made the house dirty.

Thus, untouchables found Christianity quite appealing because, as Hindus, they were trapped into the hereditary caste system for life without a chance of promotion. Whereas, as Christians, in God’s eyes, they were all equal and in their own communities there would be opportunities to progress.

Moses’ father was the first in his village to convert to Christianity and in doing so descended below the level of untouchable giving up all the government benefits that were on offer to poor and needy Hindus. He worked as a military driver and was often struck by the number of children he saw sleeping on the streets. One day he picked up 5 of them and brought them back to the house where they happily settled in with Moses as part of the family. The village was on the coast south of Chennai and something of a tourist resort and provided them with an opportunity to seek sponsorship from visiting tourists. This encouraged his father to enlarge the community to more than 70 children and give them an education and a chance to progress up the ladder.

When he was 21 Moses felt the urge to follow his father’s example and help people through Christianity. His contact with visiting tourists proved invaluable because he was able to secure sponsorship from a Swedish gentleman to enter the Methodist Cliff College in Derby to study Theology. So began his journey to England, to marriage, to family and to the Nidd Valley Methodist Circuit where he is happily settled.

There were several questions from the Floor mainly to do with the operation of the caste system. after which the vote of thanks was given by Richard Brooks who congratulated Moses on his inspiring story of progress from adversity.

Recorded by: RICHARD WRIGHT