Monday, 20 September 2010

we have some photos

of the guys in new track suits and a couple on the first coach trip to the match - will try to get some better ones soon

Thursday, 16 September 2010

My Take on the trip by Lakey

The business of taking a bus overseas would seem quite a straightforward process, seeing as vehicles of all shapes and sizes are shipped every day all over the world. So when Garry Cook gave the green light to partner with the CSA (now Manchester City Supporters Club) to facilitate the acquisition and movement of a bus over to Sierra Leone, I thought that a couple of days would sort it. How wrong and naive can one person can be...?
You see, in my capacity as Ambassador for City in The Community, aside of handing out Ferrero Rocher to all and sundry, I had been passed the African baton and told to make this happen. And, while this was undoubtedly a privilege, I hadn’t taken into account the murky, rocky, pothole-ridden road that lay ahead.
My duties were basically as follows. Sourcing the bus (with Tony Griffith’s help) all the way from Antwerp; making ten phone calls and as many e-mails to iron out problems such as the fluctuating Euro; checking the bus could cope with the terrain of Freetown; confirming the chassis number; flying Howard Burr out to Belgium to confirm the bus was in order; insuring the bus from portside in Antwerp to Manchester; confirming import costs; finding a holding company with containers to fit; getting the bus’ signage sorted out; packing the bus up, and finally organising shipping from Manchester to Felixstowe and then on to West Africa. All this and we hadn’t even packed a pair of socks yet!
In spite of this, the sight of the bus with its eye-catching signage (courtesy of Dave at Barclay Signs in Reddish), as well as the boxes full of kit, spectacles, boots, trainers, books and even computers (all donated by fans) it soon became apparent that the trip would have a profound impact upon the lives of people in Freetown and Manchester alike. This primary motive was something that, in the chaos of the build up, had temporarily been forgotten.
Our good mate Neil Cole from Endemol felt that this venture was to be a special one. He recounted to me the sense of excitement he felt whilst filming the bus being loaded into the container at Uniexpress on Hyde Road, prior to making its long journey from Ardwick to Freetown.
As I’m sure you will have seen from my travelling partners’ accounts, the road trips in and around Sierra Leone epitomised the project as a whole; stuttering, slow, occasionally frustrating and, at times, seemingly impassable. However, we soon acclimatised to the way of life in Freetown, and became educated by our guides as to how to work to Salonean time (makes Jamaican time seem urgent). The time came to work out our team formation and plan of attack as our first meal in Freetown beckoned. The waiter, who by a twist of fate was called Toure, became our breakfast entertainment in a Manuel style. No order was ever the same as requested and, when it did come, was usually cold. However, when it came to giving out shirts, our waiter suddenly found an extra gear. That said, we wouldn’t have had Toure any other way; he was priceless.
Our fortunes, sadly, took a turn for the worst when we perused our itinerary for the week. Not only was the ship behind schedule, it had not properly docked in Conakry (the penultimate stop before Freetown). We’d done everything by the book from our end, having heeded the advice of African exporters on the necessity of arriving on time to take control of your cargo, as well as getting all of the paperwork in place . The date of arrival of the boat today at 2pm; check. The duty on the cargo in place through the advice from the Embassy; check. The insurance in negotiations; check. The registration money ready on departure of the vehicle from the docks; check. The hand-over of the bus and the delivery of the kit; check. And, last but not least, the very talented Neil with his camera at the ready; check. But, due to bad weather there was no boat, no container and most importantly, no bus. Our best laid plans were now up in the air.
Our first chance to meet our hosts - Armani and our very competent driver Ibrahim (or Brian to us) took place on the Friday morning. Two very happy young men appeared by the breakfast table, their eyes dancing with excitement, as the day that had been planned for years by Tony and Armani was almost at hand. We sat and chatted for a short time before jumping into the car to Freetown. First stop was the training ground of Manchester City Sierra Leone FC. It was the possible’s versus the probables on a ‘pitch’ that could only be described as like the surface of the moon. In spite of this, twenty-two lean, fit footballers played a game of attractive football. Following the final whistle, they sat with legs crossed as I complimented them on the impressive way they had conducted themselves, offering one or two pointers to improve their game. After a resounding chorus of City Till I Die, we braced ourselves for the trip back to our hotel through the vibrant streets of the capital.
Meanwhile, back on planet Conakry, It first came to our attention that the ship had been delayed at its penultimate stop due to bad weather, but as the week yawned into the weekend, it became apparent via our internet tracker that our ship’s passage had been severely hampered by the dredging of the port itself. This costing us, in total, four days.
Luckily for us, we had a team of guys who, with a lifetime of supporting Manchester City behind them, had the steely determination and a ‘glass half-full’ attitude necessary for us to push on. All of us had taken a turn to appear on Radio Freetown which covered the whole of West Africa, and the support for us and Manchester City was growing by the day. We talked about the association between supporters and the high regard in which the club holds our loyal and unswerving fan base, and this seemed to strike a chord with the Saloneans. We spoke of the bus, and its role for the team and the community. The locals could see that this was a marvellous gesture; wherever we travelled, people would shout, ‘We love Man City, we love Man City’.
We met with so many influential people who believed in what we were doing. From the country’s Sports Minister and his secretary, to Arne Johansen (the Swedish and Norwegian consul and his wife) whose home had once been owned by Simon Mann, infamous for his failed coup d’├ętat in 2004. The people who made the most profound impression on us, however, were Armani and his family. They were all there to greet us on the Sunday before we went to a makeshift cinema to see the boys in Blue play Sunderland. Such genuine warmth and gratitude was humbling, and seeing a family with such little material possessions have so much pride and positivity gave us all a reality check. From here the Freetown Odeon beckoned, but this cinema was devoid of popcorn and trailers. Instead, we arrived to a hut on stilts with three 22- inch TV screens showing the Premiership in all of its glory, with City v Sunderland on screens 1 and 3 and Liverpool v West Brom sandwiched in between.
The passion of the Africans spilled over every five minutes, with various bets having been laid on scores and scorers. The atmosphere was electric as our fellow cinemagoers chatted about the possible champions-to-be, the failed England world cup exploits, and the African players on show. This was the highlight of their week, just like ours, and the buzz as Adebayor came on to the pitch for the last thirty minutes was fascinating to behold.
And so on to our final day. A very early start (not easy after a night of Manchester-style gale force winds and rain) was followed by a lot of tying of loose ends. The climax to our venture was the trip down to the port where our ship, the Claes Maesk, had docked and was ready (in Salonean time), to be offloaded. The captain and the port authorities duly confirmed that the container carrying our precious cargo was ready and waiting, but that there would still be a three-day wait until Armani and the team (and the wider City community) could truly appreciate its contents. A mixture of emotions spilled out amongst the Manchester contingent; whilst we were relieved that the bus had arrived safe and sound, we were frustrated that, through no fault of our own, the timing hadn’t been quite right. With the job all but completed, we headed off back to the hotel to pick up our bags and to embark on the long journey, via boat and BMI, back to Blighty.
I really hadn’t known what to expect from my trip to Sierra Leone. Yet, in spite of the abject poverty, I found a heartland of very resilient people harbouring a burning passion for football. The Saloneans are enriched by the beautiful game, and my life is richer for spending such a rewarding time with them.
Paul Lake
pic just after training - the pep talk

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

I Know he won't mind

Just got an e mail from Tony

Just had a conversation with a very excited Armani. He has just finished distributing all the kit etc. Said it was a difficult task but has now been done so successfully. He said that the whole of Freetown has gone Man City mad and everywhere the bus goes people gather round.

When we spoke he was driving to various venues to drum up business for the bus. Armani passed the phone to Ibrahim and he sounded very happy.

The team arrived at a match the other day in it the players got off in their tracksuits, but he has told them that they have to make their own way back after the game so as not to dirty the bus. Wonder how that would sit with our players???

The mirror is fitted and more photos on the way.

PS the team have played 2 won 2 since we left.

Armani and Ibrahim send their best wishes to all.


Tuesday, 14 September 2010

sorry its been a couple of days

But I am knackered - what with the trip - trying to get ALL my pupils through and getting ready for the Spain move with boot sales - trailers - organising etc etc - I just do not have enough hours in a day - but here we go - my take on the whole thing

I do not believe in chance encounters - ergo - Tony and Armani were meant to meet

From selling watches and sunglasses on a beach do giant Oak trees grow or more apt Cotton trees

Blues amaze me - they are the salt of the Earth I am one always was always will be - but they still amaze me in fact I amaze me - I do not understand me or blues but just feel the connection

The trip - Lakey what a gent a better ambassador you could not have - Neil another gent and a great photographer wait till you see the CityTv stuff and the BBC - Tony yet another he started it and was like DAD out there a gem - Howard yet another his organisational skills did not go amiss - and of course Alex who can't help but make friends wherever he goes - then we have Armani and all the players and supporters what a crowd they make lovable people and so humbling .They say a team is only as good as its component parts - we had all the right parts

Manchester airport and meeting all together for the first time - that journey delayed for hours stopping in Malaga - the helicopter- not sleeping - the odd nightcap - Armani - Ibrahim who would become the bus driver - red tape - African time TIA - the schools - the glasses - helping Aberdeen - the radio broadcasts with the lads - the sights - the sounds - the smells -Annie the mad Prof - Rick Shearn - Ray Anderson all great people who helped our cause - the welcome in Armani's community and by his family - watching the game in the "cinema" - our MINDERS - the poverty - the politeness - the frustration at times - the Johanson's great people - watching both teams play and train - Lakeys pep talk - kids running up a hill - a certain toilet - lollies - the joy on peoples faces - City till I die everywhere - the staff at the hotel and the Sierra Lighthouse and Country Lodge - the "police" on the beach road - a child's story - feeling welcome - being ripped off - the gratitude - the love - the place - the guys - everything about this trip was right and felt so

I was humbled, grateful and thankful - I will go back someday - the generous Blues who made this all possible - the Club please lets not forget the gigantic role they played in all of this without YOUR club this would not have been possible - this was my 15 mins I just hope when you get yours its as good as mine was - I hate interviews and being filmed so you won't see too much of me when that comes out but this is not about me or any of the others on the trip this is about MCFC Sierra Leone and a man called Armani a rock a giant in his community a very very determined guy - in short I loved the place the people the country

Thanks to all who in any way no matter how small made this miracle happen - it was a honour to play a small part in a big thing

Thank you blues "you made my day "
Pic the "boys" Neil was off getting his pulitzer I think - I can't find 1 photo with all six of us

Thursday, 9 September 2010


Well I have been waiting to write my feelings about this adventure until the bus and its contents were safely out of the docks and in the hands of the right people, that has just happened.

When I first met Armani in December 2003 I sensed that he was different to most people I had met there, but just how special he was I did not realise. Since our first meeting he has never ceased to amaze me with his drive and determination in the cause of City. I am glad I met him and was able to start the City ball rolling because one day I suspect someone would have realised his potential and, who knows there may have been a bus riding round Freetown with Accrington Stanley or Hamilton Academicals or similar written on it……….well it’s possible, ………….in theory.

Little did I think then that 6 ½ years down the line we would be in a position we are in now. The fact that MCFC has supported our efforts has made a massive difference and the fact that Paul Lake came on the trip with us has raised the profile of our efforts tremendously, and what an ambassador he was out there.

I have to admit feeling a little nervous at the start of our trip. I had been there 13 times before and was assuring the others that, whilst the trip would be hard work and somewhat chaotic, they would be safe out there and that they would be made most welcome. With the exception of the fact that the ship was 5 days late we could not have expected anything more on our visit. I never had any doubts or concerns about the ability of the guys on the trip to do anything other than to work hard to promote the good name of Man City, and that’s exactly what they did. I can tell you now that we left the country with a great impression of Man City and it’s supporters.

I do not propose to talk about my impressions of the country as things were not new to me and have been very well covered by others. What I would say is that the visit made me so proud to support my club, in fact I have always been proud to support the blues, but this project has taken my pride to new levels. Our football club is on the verge of greatness and I am so happy that, with the right people holding the rudder, it is taking its supporters with it on the adventures ahead.

Thanks to everyone on the trip but more importantly thanks to everyone who has made it possible from the smallest donation upwards after all we were only representing you out there. We need to keep the donations coming because there is still all lot of money to be paid for the bus.

I know you can do it blues.

Tony Griffiths
PIC - exhausted waiting at the speedboat dock on the way home


To give an overview of my week in Sierra Leone would take me forever as we did and saw so much. However I do have many instant memories so here goes:

The madness that was Lungi airport on our arrival, helicopter ride, stupid bureaucracy, families and young children breaking stones to earn a living, awful tin huts and shacks that so many lived in, seeing vultures circling in the city centre, getting my head around 6,200 Leons to £1-00, hearing that 9 children and 5 adults died when their house collapsed in the heavy rain shortly before we arrived, young children are sometimes swept away and drown in the huge gullies at the side of the roads that are there to take the heavy rain water away, seeing so many amputees as a result of the cruel war, the joy and friendliness of the people we met, so many blind people usually led by young children, good football played on impossible pitches that I wouldn't take a dog for a walk on, the joy and excitement on the children's faces when Uncle Phil dished out hundreds of lollies, seeing so many beggars, learning that so many rely on rice for breakfast, dinner and tea but on special occasions adding a little bit of fish and meat, seeing Armani's cramped living conditions, the fantastic and beautiful countryside, visiting Waterloo Market, the torrential rain, visiting a High School in Freetown where there was just 1 outside tap for the 300 students and medieval cooking facilities, visiting a Primary School up country where the plight of a 5 year old girl I held in my arms was explained to me, delivering thousands of donated spectacles that were so gratefully received especially at the optical department of a major hospital, eating at 2 offensively luxurious venues but essential to meet important contacts whilst knowing the utter squalor that is down in Freetown, enjoying the company of 5 good guys that were with me, meeting the nicest professor in the world from Canada (please marry me), enjoying a quiet drink at night with the chaps, the frustration of waiting for our shipment, meeting Armani's Mum.

I could go on but I think you now get the gist of my mainly happy memories of Sierra Leone in just one week. I intend to go there again sometime in hopefully not too distant future. My most abiding memory will always be so many wonderful and helpful people we met there.

My thoughts on the final day at Freetown was the utter relief and joy I felt at seeing the ship with our precious cargo. It more than made up for my earlier frustration of waiting for it's arrival.


Alex Channon

pic at one of the schools - top 4 ?

Wednesday, 8 September 2010


From Alison - I know this girl - great stuff Ali -and thanks for the support
Blues never cease to amaze me - I know Alison won't mind - but she will be embarrassed when I say she apologised because the donation was not more - yet the donation was very generous - love ya ta bits girl - follow Alison's example please any donation no matter how small helps

Thanks to all who have already given - but please keep it coming

I have some overviews of the week

By the lads and I will also post one - but for the next 24 hours lets just look at the bus and enjoy the fruition of your hard work - again thanks to one and all



First Howard then Tony today have been in constant contact with Armani as customs checked our container against the shipping manifest - it was a chaotic day to say the least and literally only an hour ago was the bus driven off the docks to a safe storage area - where the distribution can take place of the kit etc - We are still hoping that the British High Comissioner will do the official handover - Armani assures us he has lots of photo's of the bus coming off so as soon as we get them we will post them of course. What this now means is I can let you see what you have all been waiting for - so I will post pictures of YOUR bus for your enjoyment well done to one and all - but please remember we are still collecting.

Monday, 6 September 2010

after Tony paid the taxes - TIA

we expect the bus to be delivered tomorrow - but TIA - like I said TIA - the bus will be delivered on the morrow Weds 8th Sept - so look out for photos later on Weds

breaking news

Tony has been camped on the phone all day to SL - it seems we can not avoid the import duties so we have to pay 30,000,000 Leone in taxes to import the bus which equates to about £5000 - if we don't it sits on the dock and accrues storage charges day by day - so a great expense to himself Tony has paid this by credit card via western union which in itself was expensive to do - so an unexpected expense we have to find - we can just about pay Tony back with the last of the monies in the old CSA account - but this was earmarked for the running of the bus etc etc - so here we go again we need you to give give give now - this is an emergency - we need £5000 quick - please help

So to the day - we have to get it today - don't we

Up early again and we are all off to the shipping company to pay container charges - this is the same office where they tried to fine us $200 a few days ago this time the paperwork is filled in with no mention of a fine - it leaves us wondering are our new friends to thank ? - this takes about an hour then they say we can't pay in sterling so off to the money changers and back then another hour before we finally get our container cleared they also tell us it will 12.00noon before the ship docks - off to the docks where we go through the same rigmarole as the day before to get clearance for us and Neil's camera - where we find out that the ship will not be in until 2pm and we need to leave at 4pm to get back to hotel and then to the airport - not looking good we are now resigned to only seeing the container before we leave - it has been decided that nobody will stay as it could be quite a while before the bus actually clears the dock - this has proved correct as it is still in there as I type we expect it out on the morrow we hope - we through our new friends did pull off one minor coup - no less that the British High Commissioner for Sierra Leone is going to go to the docks on release of the container and hand it over to Armani and MCFC SL on our behalf . Neil got some good footage and did some interviews by the cargo ship we took photos - we were exhausted to a man and even though we did not see the actual bus coming off we like to think that is was mission 99.9% accomplished - we have formed new ties and made a good immpression wherever we went (I hope) - If the Man City name was big before its massive now - and we helped a few people along the way - we dragged ourselves away from the docks at 4pm and headed back to the hotel where we ate before heading to the airport to fly home everyone was hit with a sudden loss of energy and it was mainly a quiet trip to the airport - some of us did not want to leave. The guys are typing up an overall view from a personel perspective which I will post soon but I will leave this post and pic of Armani at the container ship up top for a while seems fitting.

Tuesday 31st August our last day

I have asked everybody to post an opinion on the last day which I will edit together and post as soon as I can - I hope Paul is well enough to pen a view from the Clubs perspective (his knee is really bad and a replacement is being muted) Neil I hope is going to give us a view through the camera mans lens so to speak - I think I speak for all of us when I say that this was an experience of a lifetime and a very humbling one at that - I for one will be back - I have fallen for the place - it takes a few days to realise that these are some of the best people in the world - I am well and truly humbled - hats off to Tony Griffiths who I feel sure back in 2003 did not see this coming has managed to achieve a minor miracle I am very very proud to have played a small part in it and bring his plans to fruition - the story continues....................................

ps --- you need to go through a few pages now to get the updates as there have been so many over the last few days to get a true picture of the story to date

Last night Mon 30th August

After a successful Sunday PR night with Rick Shearn from the British High Commission and Ray Anderson, Ray contacted Tony on Monday to inform him that he'd arranged a meeting/evening meal with Isha Johansen who in Ray's words "is the Queen of Sierra Leone and football mad" and was keen to meet with us to hear our story and help in any way she could.

We met with Ray who then took us to Isha's house, well we were all in for another surprise.....Isha is the wife of the Norwegian and Swedish Consul General to Sierra Leone and the Managing Director of the Sierra Leone Cement Factory (LEOCEM), Arne Birger Johansen and he was there to welcome us.

A few years ago Isha and Arne set up a football academy in Freetown to help get the young boys off the street and were very sympathetic and understanding to the troubles we were facing with all the red tape, bureaucracy and difficulties we were facing.

After a fantastic roast lamb meal they showed us a couple of DVDs about FC Johansen and you could see the similarities in what we're trying to do and what they have already achieved.

Isha, Arne, and Ray offered us their support and ongoing support for Armani once we had returned home and they assured us that along with Ray, they would be making a few phone calls in the morning to help us.

On the way back to the hotel we were all buzzing with expectation as to what our final day in Sierra Leone would bring.

Howard Burr

pics from youth team game

lining up - team meeting - the kit man

Monday Aug 30th Youth team game

We arrive in a taxi about 4.15pm - the car is mobbed to see the guys from Manchester coming to see their beloved team who happens to bear the same name as theirs - we are invited to the "changing rooms" which is merely a shed with chickens running around this is where the kitman lays out the kit on the floor - the team is announced - they eat rice - get changed - and hold prayers for victory - this was truly a humbling experience - will post pics separately in next post - we then went a few hundred yards up the "road" to watch the teams line up outside the "stadium" on the road MCFC were playing Real Madrid - I kid you not - whilst the teams are lined up facing each other and the referee is walking down the lines a car drives through the middle only in SL - we then enter the stadium to applause and general fan mania - what have we done to deserve this goes through my head we should be applauding these people - we take up our seats and our minder produces an umbrella to shade us from the heat - everybody is calling us Sir - the pitch is square - they just make a pitch fit the available ground the commentators are screaming - and this is a junior match they have more enthusiasm in their little fingers than I have in my whole body - its a sell out at least 1500 and maybe 2000 there at 1000 Leone a head (17p) - we have supporters dancing in front of us etc - the touch and by lines are when the ball hits a supporter its out - this is dynamite - by half time MCFC SL are 2-0 down and we have to leave which was not an easy task - our dutiful driver was there to whisk us back - but ohh my god what a journey it took us almost two hours to get back to the hotel where the others were waiting patiently to go to the meal - we find out later MCFC SL come back to 2-3 then 3-3 and lose to a last min penalty 4-3 but go through to the next stage finishing 2nd in the group (we seemed to be an unlucky charm at games) - this is why I am a football fan - this is what is missing in the premiership - unconditional backing and faith in YOUR team - I had tears in my eye as I remember I used to be like this -to say I was emotional would be an understatement...................

Our busy schedule continues

After going to Sightsavers with the glasses we were pushed for time - Neil needed to do some interviews and there was another game to go to the MCFC SL Youth team were playing in a tournament we needed to attend so we split up as we only had limited time left - Neil Paul and Howard went back to the hotel with our driver - Tony Alex Armani and myself headed for somthing to eat "200 yards away" in Tony's words more like a mile in mine - then Armani goes to change money for us whilst we eat then off to the game - where our poor driver would lift us and take us back to the hotel in time we hope - we were in for a treat - but we were in a tight time frame and had to be back at the hotel in time to be taken to dinner in the house of Isha Johansen - but more on that by Howard soon

Sunday, 5 September 2010

Donation of glasses

One of the more harrowing sights whilst travelling through Freetown, visiting the four Educaid schools and going up country was seeing the huge number of people who had vision difficulties or were completely blind. No guide dogs in Sierra Leone instead relatives who were usually very young children are used. A tragedy to be struck blind through sickness in Sierra Leone and another tragedy for the kids who are condemned to spend many years as another person's vision.

Following our APPEAL for glasses we received a magnificent response. The glasses wont cure anybodies blindness but they will help thousands who otherwise would struggle to see as well as possible. Thanks to Tony's contacts one part of our visit that went perfectly according to plan was our visit to the optical department of a major hospital in Freetown. Armed with a large suitcase packed with donated glasses we met up with Dr Charlie and his assistant. On opening the bulging suitcase that revealed hundreds of specs of all sizes, shapes and strengths the look on the good doctors face was one of surprise and delight. Dr Charlie's assistant informed us that our donation was perfectly timed because they had just about run out of glasses to distribute to their patients. Dr Charlie's acceptance of our donation was both humble and gracious.

Dr Charlie took us on a guided tour of his very small department and introduced us to his limited but dedicated and professional staff team. Meeting Dr Charlie and co was heart warming and gave good reason for our visit to go beyond just football.

Further bags of glasses had been left at each of the four Educaid schools we visited with one more bag being distributed amongst a small community very close to the hotel we stayed at. We have further glasses remaining here in the UK and with the APPEAL continuing more of the donations of glasses will be taken or sent to Sierra Leone at some time in the future.

Alex Channon

Every one to a man is up early

We are on a high Monday morning 30th August we are going to see the container unloaded and our precious bus is to be driven off by me - being selected for my driving skills as an instructor obviously nobody had actually seen me perform - We crawl in traffic to the docks - during this journey Tony receives a phone call seems we are invited to dinner that night with Isha Johansen the founder and owner of FC Johansen who is interested in helping us in our plight - when we arrive Howard is pulled up for trying to photograph the docking schedule "no pictures or filming allowed only by permission of security and port authority"

We cause a bit of a stir as people realise why we are there - we all have to pay 5000 Leone to gain access to the dock - Armani works his magic and we are shown to the security office - who takes us to the head of security who takes us to the shipping agent who takes us to the the boss and eventually we are given permission to film our ship and container arriving.

When we get to the shipping line office we are told there has been a mistake and our ship did not dock and would not arrive until 10 am the following day Tues 31st - THE DAY WE GO HOME - talk about cutting this fine but should it dock on time we may be able to offload and present the bus dockside just before having to leave and leave the rest to Armani - we were making inroads and friends everywhere we went but it was slow and unpredictable at best- Tony and I shared a tin of corned beef with a stolen spoon from the hotel with the odd mouthful going in Howards direction as we discussed where to go from here almost everyone vounteered to stay and make sure that our cargo was safe before we left - little did we know at the time - after this visit to the docks we felt resigned to the fact we had failed in out attempts to hand over the bus - but happy at all the other things we had acheieved contacts and frienships formed - we now headed for one of the main hospitals in Freetown where there is a charity called Sightsavers to hand over the bulk of the glasses we had collected ------ here Alex takes over as this was his baby so to speak and propbably the only thing troughout the entire trip that went without a hitch
pic is en route clock the road "maitenence guy" in the glasses

A Note from Tony's Parents

“Thanks for a great job out there and well done to you all"

Harry and Joan Griffiths ---- Tony’s mum and dad.”

Saturday, 4 September 2010

Amazing news

After arriving back from our 1,000,000 meal and having been awake since 5am I still could not sleep and was not alone - with all the events of the day and indeed the preceding days spinning in my head - so we opted for the duty free by the pool as a nightcap so Mr Morgan and thin coke was the order of the day - so imagine our surprise when at 2am Tony gets a phone call from Armani who has been informed by a friend of his who works on the dock our cargo ship has arrived and is due to be unloaded the next morning at 10am - so another early start as it takes at least an hour to cross town to the docks so off to bed and down the docks in a few hours can't wait .......................................
pic is of a slogan all over freetown - you work it out - bit of lighthearted fun as at this time we were elated

light hearted relief

At the meal and the bill its the first time we have paid 1,000,000 for a meal (with tip) or indeed the first time anyone there had paid a million for anything - this equates to approx £160 including all drinks for 10 people - I for one and I know others were feeling guilty eating here having seen what we had seen that day - but in perspective we are in probably the best hotel / eatery in town - trying to sort out our problems with men of influence and the total bill including all drinks was £16 per head - trying doing that in the UK - plus we made more friends and converted most of the staff into blues (some did not need converting)

ps thats the mad prof BTW - Hi Annie

Sunday 29th Evening

Sunday and we decide to invite some influential people to dinner in the hope that they can help smooth the passage of our precious cargo from the docks when it eventually does arrive, as it looks that we may not be still here to do it ourselves.

We speak to Rick Shearn fro the British High Commission and ask him to invite the right people. I have been made aware that a guy called Ray Anderson is in the country working within the High Commission. Ray and I go back more than 20 years and he is a good old Manchester boy with a passion for football (trouble is he follows the reds-still we’ll put up with that to get him on board)

Anyway we invite Ray to a Hotel / Restaurant called The Country Lodge which is high on a mountain above Freetown. He’s up for it, great. So the six of us plus our Canadian friend Professor Annie Bunting from our hotel cram into our car, and when I say cram I mean cram, it’s a shame that the Guinness Book of Records people were not on hand. As we approach the Country Lodge I thought that I had best warn everyone that the last 200 meters of the road were a bit hairy with sheer drops to our right. Some decided to close their eyes, no names. When we got there the guys were a bit shocked by its opulence, as was I when I first saw it in 2003. In fact it was used as the British Army Base for a short time when the UN troops came to assist the government troops during the Civil War. Before we sit down we went to look at the views of Freetown at night and they are spectacular. The first thing that I noticed is that when I have been up there in the past I have looked down on the City and seen the electricity rationed with lights only on in certain sections of the city at any one time, this time the whole city was lit. It was pleasing to see the progress on the power front. Anyway sat down with Ray and Rick to a very nice meal. We told the guys about our problems and Ray assured us that he would get onto the case straight away by contacting people he knew connected to the docks.

We ate well and chilled out over a beer but I have to say that there is something rather uncomfortable about eating in such a grand setting whilst knowing about the abject poverty that the people below us are living in. The only time I have been to the Country Lodge is to show visitors who have not been there before as it is an experience. I have never chosen to eat there regularly and whilst it was an option for us to stay at we were aware of the purpose of our mission and were aware that it was not a jolly for us so we stayed at our more modest, but perfectly acceptable, hotel.

Before leaving Rick Shearn was presented with the new City home shirt by Lakey, Rick prommised to treasure "this wonderful gift"

Meal over we drive back to our place, much to the relief of our driver Ibrahim who had had a tiring day and now its finger’s crossed that Ray can come up trumps.

Tony Griffiths

The Sunderland game

The less said about the game the better - but off we went to the "cinema" at the first one they were not showing the game so off to another - these are nothing more than shacks with a few TV's in showing nothing but football from all over the world but in particular the premiership - they charge 1000 leone admission (about 17p) - we were made to feel really welcome and I got positioned by one of the minders right next to a fan happy days - we sent out for ice cold cokes as we were all by this stage feeling the effects of very very warm day me in particular - I will let the pics tell the rest of the story .............outside - inside - with the supporters after - and Ibrahim our driver catches forty winks clutching Neil precious camera

The surrounding area and the boys

Sunday 29th afternoon

We were invited to Armani's home on the way there we met Ibrahim's Mother who works in the only shop in the community (Ibrahim and his Mum in Photo)

When we arrived at Armani's we were shown his room where he his son Tony (2 yrs named after Tony Griffiths) and his partner all live and up until recently his brother and mother also lived in this one room (see pic - Armani has tears in his eyes because Paul had visited his room) although thankfully they now have another room - The room is very organised - it has to be - and very clean and tidy - but nobody should be forced to live like this - there are 11 families living in this one building with a shared kitchen and toilet similar to the pic shown earlier so not theRitz - the football kits that were being worn the day before we all laid out on the roof of a building to dry (see pic) - but how did they put them there ?

We met Armani's family including his Mother who thanks us "next to God" and made a great speech - two little girls sang for us (see pic) and we shared rice and beer with the whole family - this was truly a humbling experience and I am welling up whilst I write this - those with nothing were giving what they had to make us feel welcome - the rice came with a dish I can't remember it's name but its made from cassava leaves - this is what they eat everyday for all meals BUT just as a treat for the "visitors" this had some meat and fish in which is not normally the case. I came away thinking I just wish everybody who complains in the UK about how they live, eat and survive should see this and this is not the worst area I might add - I also vowed I would do something about it to myself.

Sunday 29th Morning

Up with the birds very early - Neil wanted to get some GV's (I'm into cameraspeak now = general views) So along with Lakey our driver Ibrahim and myself - we set off to find relevent road signs - advertising for footie games etc along with the cotton tree where it is reported that 500,000 bats live - we got some really good footage and Neil appointed me chief spotter and I got a "legend" it takes 7 so I am told to be a true legend but I think he was making it up as he went along - at one point we learnt what a strawberry filter is - if you are being filmed and someone says this don't hold your breath on seeing the finished article

When we went to film the tree it was near an army base and the Presidents place so we could only point the camera in one direction - even after my "bribe" of a City badge Neil still got the wagging finger when he swung the camera round so we thought it best not to annoy them and just filmed the tree - when we got back we had breakfast with the other lads and then set off for a visit to Armani's home before going on to the "cinema" to watch the City v Sunderland game
Image is of the cotton tree
you may have to go a few pages to get the whole story now as its coming thick and fast