Madagascar

I had a very lovely day on Saturday with the Anglo-Malagasy community, which I mentioned I was going to in my Friday post. To give the backstory – my father was British ambassador to Madagascar from about 1998 to 2002. I went out there for four weeks at Christmas/New Year 2000/2001 and was absolutely enchanted by the place. I find it difficult to explain why, possibly something to do with the uniqueness of the environment, the charm of its people, and amazing flora and fauna with no life-threateningly nasty insects! Anyway, when I came back, I started raising money for projects there, by running party nights (the famous Whatever nights!), and over the years probably raised several thousand euros. There’s an organisation here in the UK called the Anglo-Malagasy Society, of which my father is a member and he forwarded the details to me, as he thought I might be interested in going along. Their meeting was this Saturday and as it was in London, it would have been churlish not to go. So I toddled along to South Ken on Saturday morning. I didn’t know anyone there (or so I thought) so spend the first 20 minutes or so floating around like a ghost, though any time I was asked to give my name, people did go “is that as in Charlie Mochan?” which amused me greatly. There was one guy I thought I recognised, but shrugged it off as projecting the only Malagasy I really know onto the event. And then it turned out to be him! Tsiry worked in the Embassy when my parents were there and has now moved to the UK with his family, running a business importing Malagasy produce. I tried the chocolate which was wonderful (you should order some, Moray!). I also got talking to the people from the Andrew Lees Trust, because one of their projects is supported by the Commission. There were 2 presentations, one from an NGO called Azafady, who work in the Fort Dauphin area and the other from Kew about their Millennium Seed Bank and Vegetation Atlas projects. Over a delicious Malagasy lunch I chatted to other attendees (we were about 110 in total), some of whom had family connections with the island, or had volunteered out there at some point (some this year, some in the 60s!). At the end of the day, the Chairmanship of the AMS was handed over from Sir Mervyn Brown, who was Ambassador there in the late 60s, is generally seen as one of the UK’s top experts on the country and has been Chairman of the AMS for the last 22 years, to Stuart Edgehill. There were many tributes and the afternoon was finished off with a performance by the Malagasy Lutheran Choir. My heart sank a little when this was announced, possibly as a result of nights being kept awake by the choirs in the President’s garden in Fiji (that’s another post…) but I couldn’t have been more wrong – the music was as uplifting and filled with sunshine as the Tarika albums I have, and performed with such joie de vivre. Just a lovely day and one that has filled me with renewed vigour to do what I can to support development in this wonderful country. When asked about it, I often tell people it’s somewhere that everyone should see before they die. I can only encourage anyone reading this who hasn’t been to give it real consideration.

5 Comments

Filed under Personal

5 responses to “Madagascar

  1. Vera Adesanya

    Can you please link me up with your father Sir Mervyn Brown. Lost contact years ago. We had lovely jazz jam sessions with a band called Lagos Swing College Band In Nigeria in the 80s

  2. Vera Adesanya

    There was an error in the email address in my earlier note. Do help link me with Sir Mervyn he was such a wonderful influence when i was struggling with jazz singing. The Lagos (nay Nigerian) jazz scene has never been the same since he left Nigeria.

    • antonia

      Hi Vera, Sir Mervyn isn’t my father, but he is still involved with the AMS, so I will ask them to pass on your details. He’s a wonderful man and a fantastic pianist!

  3. Sheila McManus (nee Hands)

    Dear Antonia
    After reading your blog I shd love to visit Madagascar. However I was delighted to learn that you are in touch with Mervyn. I am ‘another one’ that lost touch many years ago. I shd so appreciate it if you could pass him my e-mail. I am so pleased to hear that he is still into music.

    Best wishes
    sar

  4. liliane

    Dear Antonia,
    After having read your blog, I was just thrown years back and sweet memorie came to my mind. My father was a diplomat at the Malagasy Embassy in London in the early 70’s and I attended some meetings of the AMS. In 1983, I attended an AMS dinner at the house of lord’s while I was a french language assistant in England, I was then invited by a friend of my father (Mr Robert Godsal) who was a member of the AMS. Is there a way to know if he is still a member of the AMS and how to contact him ?

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