22 September 2011
My quarterly assessment today within the MND team at Adenbrookes Hospital. I say ‘team’but, in actual fact it was only Jo (Sasson’s) and for a brief period the speech therapist who was only really sitting in to catch up rather learn to deal with any speech problems I might be having. I had J last time and therefore was due to see Chris ( Dr Chris Allen) Jo told me he was in Zanzibar.’ Lucky man’, I said, ‘Oh no,’, retorted Jo,’he’s not on holiday, his other medical conference’. Why Zanzibar, I thought why are these conferences, the sort that I used to have two attend myself were always in warm exotic places. I think when I asked this question many years ago conference organiser he said it was all to do with keeping their wives happy so they can go shopping!
I was in Zanzibar myself around 1959/60 , not I stress on a conference but on holiday. That was before Zanzibar merged with Tanganyika to become Tanzania.
Zanzibar itself is a fascinating and picturesque island, Most famous, I suspect, for being one of the world’s largest producers of cloves. Indeed, for decades, it was known as Clove Island.. With Its narrown streets, its romantic Arabian Nights atmosphere and its wide variety of races, dress and cultures have rightly made this unique island famous.
Amongst the best attractions of this Paradise Island on the fabulous bazaars where one can buy Arab daggers (or at least were until the current security regulations were put in place) locally made silver jewellery, ivory and ebony carvings from India and China and the rare curios from the other exotic islands of Southeast Asia. However, perhaps Zanzibar’s unique curios, for which it is most famous, are its Arab chests. I should explain that this island is the only part of Africa which is predominantly populated by Arabs.
The is Arab chests are most handsome and appealing and certainly was an irresistible purchase for me. When I visited Zanzibar’s in 1959/1960, not I stress at a conference, but on holiday. I certainly succumbed to purchasing one The chest I bought has graced our home now for the last 50 years or so. They are made from wood, mostly teak, have heavy brass or iron hinges and are ornamented with fancy flat brass sheets and large brass studs. I think one of the most interesting elements of purchasing this chest was the bargaining session I had with the arrow dealer. He faked it tears at my first offer and more than once I had to walk away pretending that I had lost interest before being called back to consider another offer, but without such bargaining the dealer would have no respect for the purchaser.
There was no doubt that even 50 years ago genuine Arab chests were becoming rarer. Whether mine is antique or not (it certainly looks it really doesn’t matter a great deal as we have had a lot of pleasure from seeing it in our home over the last half-century
The insurrections in the Middle East has now reached Yemen where I lived for 4 Â½. Years. I suppose more correctly I was living in a what was at that stage, a British Protectorate, but is now part of Yemen. (Ironically, not so far from Zanzibar.) Following a similar pattern in the other parts of the Middle East large crowds have collected in public places demonstrating against the dictatorial regime. For a while the authorities seem to tolerate it and then suddenly turn on the crowds and fire at them indiscriminately. Inevitably a number are killed and if we can believe the news reporters thousands were injured. Whether the rebels will ring out in the end as they did in Libya or will be crushed back into submission as they were in Syria, only time will tell.
Oh, so far as the assessment at Adenbrookes is concerned little came out of it other than an acknowledgement that I was slowly deteriorating and Jo will follow-up monitoring palliative care matters which may improve the quality of my remaining life