Tag Archives: Madagascar

The Mighty Quins

I had my first taste of season-ticket-holding Rugby League this weekend, when I headed to the Twickenham Stoop to watch Harlequins absolutely walk all over Warrington Wolves – 60-8 was the final score and 4 of those came from a try that was an individual run longer than the length of the pitch. Good stuff. Given that my sporting event recent past has been World Cups and various games at the Millennium stadium, I seriously over-estimated the crowd – max 3000, pretty much all of whom were in the one stand. But there was loads of noise, and a great atmosphere. Certainly a family game and a much less intimidating atmosphere than the last football game I was at. So I’m looking forward to a summer of Rugby League! One thing though – why have Quins nicked and rewritten the worst chant ever? “We’re Leeds Rhinos, we’re Leeds Rhinos” is now done as “We’re Quins RL, we’re Quins RL”. They did have loads of good chants, so why nick the worst one ever in any sport?! I particularly liked “can we play you every week” and “are you Salford in disguise”? Not highly original, but still funny.

Back to work today and the big boss was in town, Commission President José Manuel Barroso. We organised a press lunch for him, with some of the leading political and economic commentators, which was really interesting. Best bit for me was the team spirit – Nik getting the catering sorted at very short notice, David heading to Number 10 very early this morning and all the work he did on getting these august people along, Anastasia the intern happily jumping in to do rubbish jobs like taking coats and photocopying, Albena dealing with all the daily work of the office as we all ran around sorting out last minute arrangements. It’s a great feeling to have such a good team. And Emilia came back from maternity leave – it’s lovely to have her back. Now we just need Jen to come back from holiday next week and we’ll be at full strength.

Terrible news from Madagascar. I have a particular interest there, as my father was British Ambassador during the last crisis, when Ravalomanana was elected and there was gunfire and explosions on Tana… It’s like history repeating itself, the mayor of Tana takes on the President. Though the difference this time is that the president was elected. It’s such a shame for that country, which is the most amazing place I have ever been. I’m hopefully going to the next meeting of the Anglo-Malagasy Society on 1 April, so will find out more then.

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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.


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The sound of silence

Sorry, have been very negligent in my blog-writing duties. It’s not even that we’ve been totally swamped with work. It’s been quite busy, but in a very bitty way, doing a lot of admin and financial procedures for the various events that we have coming up before the end of the year and doing a lot of planning, so we are on top of upcoming issues. It’s my mantra that it’s better to plan what you can and give yourself the space to deal with last-minute emergencies rather than being in a permanent state of stress because everything is being dealt with at the last minute. It seems to be working quite well, though as long as most people in Brussels operate at the last minute, there’s not much we’re going to be able to do. Which is what is nice about this job. We are dependent on Brussels for the majority of our work, but at the same time there’s a lot that’s in our own hands and so we manage that as best we can.

We’ve been meeting all week with providers of contact databases for journalists, as our contract is up and a new tender is underway. I’ve never used one of these before, so it has been interesting to see what systems are out there. Looking forward to sorting it all out and starting work with one of these systems, which will hopefully allow us to manage our contacts with journalists better.

The telly in the office has had unprecedented levels of pictures of Brussels on it. The summit was given practically blanket coverage on News24 – have you ever seen a Berlaymont VIP corner live on British TV? Great stuff.  My favourite moment was when they covered live Angela Merckel’s comments to the press as she went in. In German. Without subtitles/interpretation. Cue lots of confused looking people in the BBC studio, saying things like, well I have German O-level but didn’t understand a word. Heehee.

Took advantage of the lovely weather to go for a walk this lunchtime, over Westminster Bridge, along the river, back over Lambeth Bridge and past the Houses of Parliament. We bumped into George Parker, Political Editor of the FT and former bureau chief in Brussels, which is always a pleasure.

I’ve got the house to myself at the moment, as the Housemate is away on a work trip which he is turning into a long weekend. Not that I’ve got much planned. Tomorrow I’m going to go to the meeting of the Anglo-Malagasy Society, sort of representing my father, sort of for myself (looking forward to the Zebu sarnies…!) Sunday I’ll be round at my aunt’s for lunch. It’ll be great to catch up with her. Otherwise a very quiet weekend ahead.

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