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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