7 March 2011
The beginning of a busy week. Early this morning I went off by ambulance to Papworth Hospital for my quarterly respiratory tests. Although I shall have to wait for the consultantâ€™s written report the general feeling was that although I had deteriorated very slightly since my last visit in December, on the whole the signs were encouraging. My consultant, this time was Michael Davies, who like his colleague Ian Smith was charming and extremely helpful. He has taken the problem of my runny nose on board and has prescribed some antihistamine combined with a different nasal spray. Interestingly, he said that it was not unusual for patients wearing the respiratory mask to have a runny nose in the morning when they removed it but it was rather less usual, but not unknown, to have a repeat 12 hours or so later. In any event, the encouraging news was that even if we did not manage to clear the runny nose completely it should not normally interfere with breathing through the mask which would tend to dry it up. I had two kindly lady ambulance drivers to take me home, in fact, the same two that I had the pleasure of meeting on a previous occasion.
I watched a fascinating programme on BBC television, last evening, Attenborough and The Giant Egg. It was all about Madagascar, the island in the Indian Ocean, just off the South East end of the African continent. One of the most interesting things I learned from this programme was that the island was not colonised from Africa, as one would have expected, but from Malaya, from hundreds of miles, SSE away, across the Indian Ocean So the indigenous population is not African but Â Malay although, of course, over the centuries, there has undoubtedly been some intermarrying but even today the population looks more Arab and African. Attenborough made his first visit to this island, and consequently his first documentary about the flora and fauna, in 1960 and this present one was a sort of nostalgic reminiscence of the first one.
Almost the same time that Attenboroughâ€™,s exploration of Madagascar I visited Â the island of Zanzibar further north, up the African coast. Like Madagascar, Zanzibar was not peopled by Africans but by by Arabs. I can only assume that at the time the Africans were not a seagoing nation and despite these islands being fairly close to the African coast it took seafaring people like the Malays and Arabs to colonise them. I should hasten to add I have no authority for making this presumption. (Maybe one of my readers will put me right). One abiding memory I have of this visit Â was Â seeing the large iron rings close to the Zanzibar beaches, where the African slaves were chained before being shipped to America. Clearly it wasn’t very healthy to be African in Zanzibar in those days. It still makes me shudder to think of it today. Having said that, ironically there was a programme on this morning’s news about people trafficking from Eastern Europe to the UK who were sold to people either in the sex industry or in ourselves as nothing less than modern slaves. Of course the authorities are trying to do what they can to break down this traffic in human misery but the perpetrators are extremely tenacious and clever in their methods. It is a very profitable business and horrifying to think that such slavery still exists today.
Â The only souvenir I have of that visit is a rather fine, supposedly, antique Zanzibar wooden chest with beaten copper embellishments. Whether it is genuinely antique or a modern fake we have never really bothered to find out. In any event, is now 50 years older than it was when I bought it so in another 50 years it will be an antique in its own right!