How Not To Climb A Mountain In Africa

How Not To Climb A Mountain In Africa

I’ve so enjoyed reading about Lynne’s successful mountaineering exploits in recent editions of ‘What’s On’ that I’ve decided to (figuratively) put pen to paper to tell you about a spectacular failure.

I have to take you, dear reader, back to East Africa where Lynne had her successes on Mounts Kenya and Kilimanjaro before she went further afield to the Himalayas.

The failed adventure in which I was initially a willing participant was to scale Mount Meru, a more modest 4,562 meters high lump of a collapsed former volcano which is located in northern Tanzania, a distance of some 70 kilometres from the aforesaid Kilimanjaro which peaks at some 5,895 metres.


At this point some background context would be useful. The year is 1964 and the country, then called Tanganyika, had gained independence from the British a year or so previously. I was with a group of some 40 young people. A week or so previously we had arrived at an agricultural training school in the town of Arusha, to spend three weeks on an intensive Kiswahili language learning course prior to being dispersed across the new nation as volunteers engaged in diverse development related activities.

Mount Meru, some 20 miles distant, loomed large behind the school. Of course we were all young and enthusiastic and all equally determined to pack as much of Africa as possible into our time there.

The plan was apparently simple, and we were advised by our teacher it would be as follows: be driven to the foot of the mountain on a Saturday morning, walk up towards the summit all day following a track through the lush tropical forest, find a hut to stay the night and on the Sunday morning strike off to the summit on the now gravelly / rocky path.

So, on that fateful Saturday morning we all set off aboard the school’s ex-army canvas sided flat bed lorry with a lot more enthusiasm than we had suitable equipment or preparation.

The first bit of the ascent was easy as we ambled through the coffee plantations on the lower slopes as we exchanged our newly learned greetings of “Jambos” and “Habari ganis” and “Habari za kazi” with the farmers tending their coffee vines on their “shambas”. Leaving the farms, the ascent started to get steeper and the surrounding vegetation somewhat denser, but we were following a sort of path and the spirits were high.

Then we found to our dismay that we were no longer following a path. But what could go wrong? As long as we kept ascending we would be going in the right direction! Remember, the forest was fairly dense and we didn’t really have a clue as to the direction we should be going. Apart from “up”. But as we progressed “up”, we would be met by a steep “down” into one of the many ravines that radiated out from the peak. And so on and on until both darkness and exhaustion overtook us without the possibility of reaching either the elusive hut or indeed any other semblance of shelter.

So, somewhat dejected, we decided to do the best we could to spend the night in the forest, lulled into a fitful sleep by serenading sounds of Africa all around us, only to be sharply awakened by various scary and unidentified animal noises.

We survived the night and next morning we started to retrace our steps back towards civilisation, up and down again across the steep ravines. Eventually we emerged from the forest into the coffee growing “shambas” to be greeted by the farmers with a cheery “Habari za safiri?” (How is the journey?). East African polite convention dictates that a negative answer is not given to such a request for news and the correct response is always “Nzuri sana” (Very good indeed). Whereas, under our breaths, we were actually saying “Mbaya kabisa” (As bad as it can get)!

So, late that Sunday evening we returned to the school, footsore, tired, starving, but happy in the knowledge that in our first week in Africa we had not only been lost in the forest, but we had been able to practice some of our newly acquired Kiswahili in real life situations!

As an end piece I would add that a year or so later I did climb to Gilman’s Point on Kilimanjaro as part of a properly resourced “expedition”. On reaching that summit I had never been as cold and tired as I was that day, nor in my subsequent 55 years. In those days before the onset of climate change there was certainly a lot more snow and ice on the summit than is present today.

A further footnote. In preparing for this piece, I did a bit of googling and found the following:

Mount Meru is a serious three to four-day trek and although it is often used as a practice run by those hoping to summit Kilimanjaro, the smaller mountain is actually the more technical. A guide is mandatory on every trek and there is only one official route up to the summit. The route is well marked with huts along the way offering simple, comfortable beds. Unofficial routes on the west and northern sides of the mountain are illegal. Acclimatization is important, and while you won’t need oxygen, spending at least a few days at altitude before attempting the climb is highly recommended.

Well, in the light of this, we never stood a chance did we?

“Time Traveller”



Bring Back Tommy Cooper


Phone answering machine message – ‘If you want to buy marijuana, press the hash key’.


I went to the butchers the other day and I bet him 50 quid that he couldn’t reach the meat. off the top shelf. He said, ‘No, the steaks are too high.’


My friend drowned in a bowl of muesli. A strong currant pulled him in.


I went to a seafood disco last week and pulled a muscle.


Two Eskimos sitting in a kayak were chilly. They lit a fire in the craft, it sank, proving once and for all that you can’t have your kayak and heat it.


Our icecream man was found lying on the floor of his van covered with hundreds and thousands. Police say that he topped himself.


Man goes to the doctor, with a strawberry growing out of his head. Doctor says ‘I’ll give you some cream to put on it’.


A man takes his Rottweiler to the vet.

‘My dog is cross-eyed, is there anything you can do for him?’

‘Well’, said the vet, ‘let’s have a look at him’. So he picks the dog up and examines his eyes, then he checks his teeth. Finally, he says, ‘I’m going to have to put him down.’

‘Why – because he’s cross-eyed?’ ‘No, because he’s really heavy’.


Ireland’s worst air disaster occurred early this morning when a small two-seater Cessna plane crashed into a cemetery. Irish search and rescue workers have recovered 2826 bodies so far and expect that number to climb as digging continues into the night



My Trip To Tanzania

My Trip To Tanzania

Hi! Hope everyone’s well.

Just wanted to say a thank you once again to everyone that supported me in the run up to my trip to Tanzania. I came back a month earlier than planned because of the current situation with Covid 19, however the month and a half that I did spend out there was an amazing experience which I enjoyed very much.


Whilst on the environmental stage of the expedition, where we were planting trees so that a small village could have sustainable resources for the future, I stayed with a Tanzanian family. Seeing how the ways of life differ first hand has really humbled me and made me appreciate what my life is like. I missed out on the section of the trip where we would have built a sanitation block for a primary school. However, Raleigh International are giving me the chance to return this time next year and finish the expedition, which is great.

Thanks once again, I hope everyone has a lovely rest of the summer.





About Brass Monkeys

DID YOU KNOW About Brass Monkeys?

In the heyday of sailing ships, all war ships and many freighters carried iron cannons. Those cannons fired round iron cannon balls. It was necessary to keep a good supply near the cannon. However, to prevent them from rolling about the deck, the best storage method devised was a square-based pyramid with one ball on top, resting on four resting on nine, which rested on sixteen. Thus, a supply of 30 cannon balls could be stacked in a small area right next to the cannon. The ‘pyramid’ was stored on a metal plate called a ‘Monkey’ with 16 round indentations. However, if this plate were made of iron, the iron balls would quickly rust to it. The solution to the rusting problem was to make ‘Brass Monkeys.’ Brass contracts much more and much faster than iron when chilled. Consequently, when the temperature dropped too far, the brass indentations would shrink so much that the iron cannonballs would come right off the monkey; Thus, it was quite literally, ‘Cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey.’


Test Your Knowledge

Test Your Knowledge


1. Glamorous American film star who died from an overdose of sleeping pills in August 1962

2. When Winston Churchill said, in August 1940,”Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few”, to whom was he referring?

3. The eruption of which volcano, in 79 AD, destroyed the cities of Stabiae and Herculaneum?

4. In August 1945 the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, what was the name of the plane that dropped it?

5. In August 1896, gold was discovered at Rabbit Creek, a tributary of which Alaskan river?

6. In 1572 thousands of Protestant Huguenots were murdered, by Catholics, in what became to be known as The St Bartholomew’s Day Massacre. In which country did it take place?

7. Born on 27th August 1910 as Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu, she founded a religious order known as the Missionaries of Charity and spent her life working in India.

8. Born on August 30th 1797, which author wrote the novel Frankenstein?

9. In August of which year were the Olympic Games held in Berlin?

10. In 1960 which city was declared to be the federal capital of Pakistan?

11. Born in August 1803, this man went on to become a gardener and architect and designed the Crystal Palace.

12. What is the name of the author, born in August 1819, whose best known novel is Moby-Dick?

13. The signing of the United States Declaration of Independence took place in August of which year?

 14. Born in 1884, Henri Cornet, at aged 19 is the youngest ever winner of which endurance race?

15. In 1305 the leader of the Scottish resistance against England (made famous in the film ‘Braveheart’) was captured and ultimately executed. What was his name?

16. In 1620, which ship departed from Southampton, England on its first attempt to reach North America.

17. Born in 1862, Joseph Merrick became known as what due to his deformities?

18. Who was the English actor who died in August 2000 famed for his roles in several Ealing comedies including ‘The Lady Killers’ and ‘Kind Hearts and Coronets’?

19.The building of what structure was started in August 1961?

20. Which US state joined the Union in August 1959?

21. How old was Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, on 4th August 2000?

22. What canal opened in August 1914?

23. The first steamship crossed the Atlantic in August 1818. What was its name?

24. August 9th, 1930, is the birthdate of what cartoon character?

25. In August 1893, the world’s first car registration plates were introduced in which country?


Click here for the Answers



A Visit To A Museum And A Hard Day’s Night


We had started out rather late as the museum did not open early. It was a small museum on the shore of a Norwegian fjord, and it celebrated the heroism of a local resistance fighter who opposed the Nazi invasion of his homeland in 1940. After a fascinating look around the many and poignant exhibits, we walked with our skis and rucksacks to the nearby jetty where a boat was waiting to ferry us across the cold fjord to the opposite bank.

The crossing in a high-speed boat, provided by the Norwegian Marines, did not take long and we quickly disembarked near a small wooden hut where one of the resistance fighters had spent many weeks hiding during the war. He had frostbite in the unheated hut and to avoid gangrene, which he knew would kill him, he cut off his black fingers with a penknife. We silently paid tribute to such bravery before hoisting our rucksacks, clicking into our ski bindings, and moving off across the fresh snow.

Soon we were pushing our way up the steep hillside through young silver birch trees; they made the going tough. After fighting our way through the dense trees, we were hot and sweaty but at least we could now press on to ascend a distant ridge and drop down to a small village where we were to spend the night sleeping in the gym of a school. After the wood, the ascent steepened and we soon found ourselves in a wide gully down which a stream had been flowing, but now in March, it was just a mass of ice covering the rocks. This required care as a slip would have sent me hurtling down from ledge to ledge to the bottom which was well over one hundred feet below. A couple of us took off their skis while others side stepped up the snow which covered the ice. It was very slow going.

At last, the small party was assembled at the top of the gully and before us was a gentler snowfield that led to the distant ridge. It was now late afternoon and while waiting for the last of the party to catch up we dug a hole in the snow to check on the profile and the stability of the crust. The snow layers looked stable and when the last person arrived, we pushed on to the ridge. The shadow of the skier in front was long now and I realised we were rather late to be on the ridge.

It was downhill from the ridge to the valley below, an easy run on skis and our spirits were high. The maps did not clearly show the best line to take so we skied down only to find that we were at the top of a high cliff. This was frustrating and time-consuming as we had to take our skis off – put the skins back under them which allowed us to ski back up to the ridge. After we had repeated this exercise a few times it was pitch black, and we were navigating with head torches, map and compass. The cold made replacing batteries in head torches difficult as our fingers were frozen.

By about one o’clock in the morning, we were tired and unable to find a suitable route down. It was bitterly cold, and the wind was strong. I decided we had better spend the night where we were, in relative safety. So, we decided to dig two snow holes in the steep bank, each one would take 3 of us. We removed our skis and took shovels and snow saws from our packs and began to dig fast which kept us warm. After forty minutes the small caves in the bank of snow were big enough and we squeezed in, blocking the entry hole with the largest rucksack once we were all inside. The change was dramatic as suddenly there was no howling wind and by the light of our head torches, we settled down like sardines to try and sleep – I was exhausted.

I tossed and turned but being in the middle of the three of us I was probably the warmest. After a few hours, I moved the rucksack from the door and found that dawn was breaking. So, I went out and stood looking at the drop below us and realised how lucky we had been to stop where we did. I tried to make a call on my mobile phone, but my shivering fingers could not hit the keys because of the cold.

Just then I saw a flashing light, a strobe, miles away down the valley. It had to be a helicopter looking for us as we were overdue, but it quickly disappeared. Minutes later a crewman appeared on foot as the helicopter had carefully followed our ski tracks and landed out of sight above us. Wearing a flying helmet, overalls and life jacket he looked like someone from another world. He asked if we were all OK and whether we would need a lift off the mountain? I explained that we were British and fine thank you, but the offer of a lift was too good to refuse.

In a very short time, the six of us were in the big noisy smelly beast and just a few minutes later we landed at the school, thanked the crew profusely, and soon we were asleep in our bags on the floor of the gym. It had been a night to remember.

Kindly contributed by a Wenvoe resident



The Dead Duck


A woman lays her very limp pet duck on the table in the veterinary surgery. The vet puts his stethoscope to the bird’s chest and listens carefully. The vet shakes his head. “I’m really sorry, but your duck, Cuddles, has passed away.

The woman becomes quite distressed and begins to cry. “Are you sure?” she says. “Yes mam” the vet responds. “Your duck is definitely dead.” “But how can you be so sure?” the woman protests. “I mean, you haven’t done any testing on him or anything have you? Perhaps he’s just stunned.”

The vet rolls his eyes and leaves the room. A few minutes later he returns with a black Labrador retriever. As the duck’s owner looks on in amazement, the Labrador stands on his hind legs, puts his front paws on the examination table and sniffs around the duck. He then looks up at the vet with sad

eyes and shakes his head. The vet pats the dog on the head and takes it out of the room. A few minutes later the vet returns with a cat. The cat jumps on the table and sniffs at the bird. After a moment the cat looks up, shakes its head, meows and strolls out of the room.

The vet looks at the woman and says, “I’m really sorry, but as I said before, your duck is dead.

The vet then turns to his computer and produces a bill. The duck’s owner, still in shock, looks at the bill and sees it is $150. “$150 just to tell me my duck is dead!” she shrieks with incredulity.

The vet shrugs his shoulders and says, “I’m sorry mam. If you’d taken my word for it, the bill would have been $20. However, with the Lab Report and the Cat Scan, it’s now $150.



Wenvoe Playgroup Re-Opening

Wenvoe Playgroup Re-Opening

On the 20th March 2020 we were given the news to take an extended Easter Holiday due to COVID-19. Little did we know then, that we wouldn’t return until 29th June 2020.

Throughout March and the months that followed to June, we lived in uncertain times like everyone, not knowing when and how we could return safely to the group. However, we did, and I would like to thank our wonderful Management Committee who have helped us to return safely.

Wenvoe Playgroup CIO is a registered charity, belonging to the residents of Wenvoe and run by the Parents of children who attend the setting. We also have many people in our village who support the Playgroup year after year, helping with our Website and fundraising. We are grateful for all the support that everyone together provides, to make it the success it is today.

Writing this, we are now near the end of summer term. We have successfully operated the last three weeks, working with 16 children in two groups of 8 at the Village Hall. Children returned and adapted well to the new routines, being happy to return to the familiar setting with their Aunties, relaying all their experiences and stories from the past 3 months.

Moving forward into September, we will be re-opening on Monday 7th September. Some of our services may take a little while to put in place, however, we will do our best to return to ‘normal’ as soon as possible. We will re-open our waiting lists into September as we move forward.

The 30 Hour Free Childcare Offer closed to new applicants at the end of March, however, they hope to be open once more by the end of August. If you visited the Playgroup in February and completed a contract, then you are able to contact the Vale Family Information centre Tel: 01446 704704 / E-mail: who will happily take your details and contact you once the offer is open for those applying for September 2020


What is the 30 Hour Free Childcare Offer and how does it work?

The 30 Hour Free Childcare offer is all about the Child and where they live, not where the Childcare Provider is located. It is available to children the term after their 3rd Birthday.

If your Child is 3:

  • 1 Sept – 31 Dec they will be eligible in January
  • 1 January – 31 March they will be eligible in April (after the Easter Hols)
  • 1 April – 31August – they will be eligible in September


If the Child is living with 2 parents, both parents work 16 hours or more per week at National Minimum Wage (NMW)

If the Child is living with 1 parent, that you work 16 hours or more per week at NMW.

If you earn more than £100,000.00 per parent then the Child is not eligible

Wenvoe Playgroup can offer free care for up to 17.5 hours of the 30 hours during term time. On holiday weeks, 30 Hours may be claimed through another provider. 12.5 of the 30 Hours is used by LEA Nursery, however, you can just use up to 17.5hrs. Some of our children this year have attended 4 days free of charge at Playgroup or 5 days with a small top up fee. The choice is yours.

Should you wish for further information, then please view our website where you will find information and a link to our email to ask questions throughout August.

For those parents who have been in contact with the group, you will be kept up-to-date via email as we move forward into September.

Have a lovely summer everyone and we will keep you updated with any changes



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