I’ve been out of the country for the past two weeks enjoying a lovely holiday in probably one of the unlikeliest of places. Yes, the family and I went to Ethiopia. And I can tell you for a fact that it’s not like your immediate image of those starving children in the 1980s scattered across a desert wasteland.
I hadn’t realised quite how welded into my psyche those pictures were with Bob Geldorf imploring us all to feed the world and asking whether anyone knew it was Christmas.
I can tell you for a fact that the Ethiopians know when Christmas is as the country is highly orthodox Christian – it’s on January 7.
But as to the year – well, we travelled back in time to 2011 as Ethiopia is on a different calendar to us. There are also 13 months in their year, but luckily international flights in and out run on our time. Otherwise we’d have been stuck there for a mere eight years waiting for our return flight.
Whatever date it is I think the Ethiopians are possibly the most beautiful race I’ve ever come across. I kid you not, walking through the biggest market in Africa – which is in Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa – I saw at least seven men and women whom (had I been an agent) I could have repped and turned into supermodels at the drop of a hat. Tall, classical, beautiful skin tones. Compare and contrast that to the first day of sunshine here, and what we offer. Undercooked pasties crawling out of every crevice to burn.
Africa has its many problems, just as we do. Litter – particularly plastic – blights the landscape. I looked forward to coming home and seeing none, but then when we did, that wasn’t the case with waste lining the roads from Heathrow.
But what I didn’t see was donkeys in the street, or sheep being sold at the side of the road, or tables groaning under fresh fruits like mangoes, pineapples and papayas.
I have a hundred stories to tell about glorious Ethiopia, but the main one is that it’s worth the trip, worth overcoming the images of the past and making the journey to this lush, and never colonised, land.
Bring on the paper and get rid of supermarket plastic
It’s not often that I shop in Waitrose as I always think that simply walking through the door will cost me about £32, and a bottle of milk will break the bank.
But needs must and I popped in last weekend with a list firmly clenched in one hand so I didn’t spend more than my monthly mortgage on two items.
What I did find – much to my delight – were loaves on the shelf in paper bags. About time too. I hope that this is something which other supermarkets adopt at speed.
I also had a choice of packaging at a local greengrocer as the cashier was loathe to dump my 27 new potatoes into my bag. Bring it on, bring on the paper and get rid of the plastic.
No planes or smartphones, a modern race around globe
What a terrific series Race Across the World was. Five teams of two were pitted against each other and travelled from London to Singapore on a strict budget (the price of an air fare) and strict rules – they had to travel without flights.
There were checkpoints en route and places they could work for a day or two. No smartphones were allowed but there was much interaction with people on buses, trains and more.
It was inspiring to see the scenery and the adventure, as the couples were mixed in ages, friendships, family and outlooks. Best of all, the couple I was rooting for won. Catch it on the iPlayer and treat yourself to a travel documentary like no other.