Saturday, December 26, 2015

Beasties from Guinea!

While in our remote camp in Guinea it wasn't all work, work work so I took the chance to use my Moto G to take some pictures of the local beasties at the camp and out onsite.  I was amazed at both the wonderful variety of beasties and at how far phone camera technology has come on in recent years!  While we did hear bigger animals and birds off in the bush I didn't get close enough to photograph any of them so it's mostly bugs below. 

Dragon Fly
And again.
Butterfly in the ladies loo
Another bug in the ladies loo but no idea what it was!
I wasn't the only one taking pictures of bugs in the ladies loo!
Another type of Mantis?
Friendly spider
This frog was a lot smaller than it looks in this photo!
Not the best photo but I found this not so little fellow crawling over my head on the inside of my mosquito met one night about midnight!

Thursday, December 24, 2015

One of the flights I take most often is from Paris to Conakry in Guinea for work. The last time I flew that route back in November I managed to get some of the best photos I had ever taken from an aeroplane with my trusty Moto G.  I am continually shocked at how much cameras on phones have improved in recent years, soon to follow will be a post on photos of little beasties that I took while in Guinea.

Flying into Africa over the coast of Morocco!

The Atlas Mountains (I think!) and snow.

The Sahara!

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Only in France!

Ah only in France would you get pyjamas for a five year old with a Nietzsche quote on it (and only for five year olds, none for six so we weren't able to get it for Ela)!

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Scenes from Simandou

One of the reasons the blog hasn't been updated in quite some time is that I've been back at work iat Simandou in Guinea since early May with a just a couple of weeks break back home on Reunion since then.

Lush views back in May!
When I got here it wasn't quite the rainy season and while we did get the "mango rains" it was generally warm and sunny with occasional storms.  Since I got back from my break home a few weeks ago though it's been the proper rainy season with heavy rain, fog, lower temperatures and more rain!  As we are running a helicopter based drilling and excavating geotechnical investigation this has lead to some delays!

Market Day in Moribodou
Still our team and the local people here are great (mostly) and the work interesting so no complaints!

Preparing for the flag ceremony, each morning everyone at camp gathers to pay their respects as the flag is raised. 
Waiting for the helicopter.

And up, up and away!

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Back in April we acquired a pair of chicks to, hopefully, supply us with fresh eggs. Then in early May I headed back to Guinea for work, I got home last week to find that our cute chicks Paquerette and Picorette had morphed into cat bullying monster poop machines!

Still no eggs though.

The girls

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Decision day in Ireland!

Exciting times!  Tomorrow Friday May 22nd is decision day in Ireland.  Two referenda will be decided:

The Marriage Referendum and The Age of Presidential Candidates Referendum (for information see here)

With the marriage referendum Ireland becomes the first country in the world to have marriage equality decided by popular vote.  Now while I don't think that human rights should be decided by vote I am still incredibly excited to think that Ireland has the chance as a country and a people to declare to the world that WE CHOOSE equality, it won't be "foisted" on us by court decision or decided by the Dail (the Irish parliament) but rather the people have the chance to say THIS IS OUR CHOICE loud and proud!  

Of course the corollary of that is that if the referendum is rejected by those openly opposed and  "shy" no voters (all the polls point to a yes decision)  then how saddened and disappointed in our country will those of us who support equal rights be.  Despite the overwhelming support that I see for the referendum in traditional and social media and personal messages the nagging fear remains that despite appearances perhaps Ireland hasn't really changed all that much after all - how glorious it would be to have that fear dispelled!

Of course while the Marriage Referendum is (quite rightly) getting the vast majority of the press Irish people are also being asked to decide whether or not to lower the age requirement for presidential candidates from 35 to 21.  This question hasn't raised the level of passion or debate (or for that matter interest) that the marriage equality referendum has but since we (and I still say we even though I no longer have a vote by dint of living outside of Ireland) have been asked it I think we should be considering it carefully.

I have seen arguments that those under 35 are not mature enough or would not comport themselves with the dignity that a head of state requires and my response is that if you don't feel a candidate is suitable for the job then don't vote for them.  Surely increasing and extending equality as far as we can is a good thing?  It seems a shame to me to hear ardent supports of the marriage referendum turn around and use the same arguments that have in the past been used against women, the poor and minorities against younger adults!

Anyway that is my 2 cent, wish I could get back to vote! 

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Cleaning up Le Gouffre!

Recently the Reunionese branch of the Surfrider organisation have been organising clean ups of various sites around the island and as a good green family we headed off to take part in one at "Le Gouffre" (the chasm) near Etang Salé.  Le Gouffre is a spectacular area of basalt lava flows by the sea.
Rubbish hunting!

The surfrider crew had set up tent and were already organising the about fifty people who had turned up when we arrived (we were running late having dallied at the beach just up the road in Etang Salé!).   We soon got up to speed though and after a safety briefing about what kind of rubbish not to pick up (the likes of condoms and needles, if you found them call the surfrider team to deal with them) we were issued with gloves and a plastic bag and headed off.

Le Gouffre!
Though the area didn't look overwhelmed by rubbish over the next hour or so we filled our bag with plastic bottles, cans, various plastic odds and ends (wrapping, plates etc.), foil etc.  In a disheartening way it was just more evidence of how much of our waste there is out there :(, and how much effort it will take to overcome the problem!

The setting sun at the end of the day.

Monday, April 6, 2015

New Arrivals - Paquerette & Picorette

So we have two new family members, Paquerette & Picorette, two six week old chicks, arrived last Friday just in time for Easter!  Early last week Aurelie decided that we should have a chicken to supply us with fresh eggs (not unusual here) and thus a saga was begun!

My suggestion that a couple of pallets, some other wood and a plastic tarp that we had lying about the place would, with the addition of some chicken wire, make a perfectly serviceable chicken coop was overruled so after looking around at various options we ended up with a fancy new ready made hen house.  

Initially we had thought of getting a single chick but then thought if we did that and it would be lonely, so we needed to get two (briefly, when Aurelie saw the newborn chicks that were also for sale, it was going to be four but we were told that mixing the older and younger chicks might not be the best idea it went back to two).  So after more looking around to find the place selling the "happiest" chicks, we found the best place we thought we would we return the next day with the kids to buy the chicks once we had everything ready at home, of course when we went the next day all of the chicks had been sold!   Luckily they were due to get more the next day so Aurelie and the kids duly returned to the shop last Friday and picked up two chicks, the aforementioned Paquerette & Picorette.  

Ela and Picorette

Toffee meeting a new family member

Monday, March 16, 2015


When we were last in Lyon the kids grandparents took them to a climbing wall.  They both liked it but Ela REALLY liked it.  It turns out that there is a gym with a number of climbing walls within walking distance of our place and an association that runs classes for kids.  Last Friday Ela and I walked down and she had a try out lesson which after a moment of trepidation on seeing how big the walls were turned out to be a big success (very much helped by the lovely instructor who was great with the kids)! 

Almost there.

Made it!
I constantly amazed at the amount and huge variety of organised activities run by associations and the local councils here.  Since the kids were so little when we left Ireland we weren't so involved in that kind of thing there (and growing up books and gaming were my thing to the exclusion of most other activities) so I don't know if it is the same there but it seems that there is wider participation in "niche" activities than in Ireland.  Then again it may just be that different activities are popular here and it's just my perception as an outsider looking in and that a Reunionese person living in Ireland would have the same impression. 

Still while I was watching Ela climb I saw poster for canyoning courses (use of equipment, abseiling, navigating the waters etc.), hmm, I think I may have to make time for that when I get back from my next work trip! 

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Election Time Again

It's election time again in Reunion and once again Aurelie is running for the Green Party (Europe Ecology - The Greens).

This time its the departmental elections, one of the many levels of government that France has.  There are municipal/local elections, departmental elections, regional elections, national elections and European elections. To add to the confusion while most regions include a number of departments Reunion is both a department AND a region so needs elected bodies for both!    

The campaign won't be as intense as the municipal/local elections as there is less at stake.  Each level of government has different areas of responsibility.  As far as I understand (and my understanding of this is shaky at best!)  the department is responsible for: departmental roads (not national roads or streets), collages (school between the ages of about 11 to 15, why just these and not for older and younger ages I've no idea), waste management (at the departmental level), solidarity payments (for example supplementary payments for care in old folks homes, payments for care of kids 0-6, etc.). There are probably more areas of responsibility but the more I enquire the more puzzled I get trying to sort out the different areas of responsibility between the differing governing bodies, still Aurelie seems to know what is going on!

Still its another election and another chance to raise the Green profile locally.

Below are a couple of articles from Reunionese newspapers.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Latest eruption

Our local volcano, Piton de la Fournaise may not be one of the worlds most famous volcanoes but is one of the most active having erupted more that 150 times since the 17th century, most recently it started erupting again a couple of days ago!  

Although it is exciting to think of an eruption close by it's generally nothing to be concerned about as the volcano is typical basaltic shield volcano with effusive eruptions (lava flows) rather than explosive ones and the active areas are all national park and uninhabited.  I've already been through this conversation with the kids, explaining that while the volcano is erupting its not something we have to worry about, I'm not sure they took 100% of the explanation concerning magma composition, hot spots and continental drift but they seemed reassured nonetheless!'s coverage of the eruption

Reporting by Clicanoo's French language website

NPR's Emma Jacobs report on the eruption

As an aside I have always wanted to see an active volcano especially since back in 1997 I was supposed to go to study Mt Etna in Sicily for my MSc. thesis, however the university's health and safety people intervened and the trip was cancelled and I instead ended up studying historic earthquakes in Scotland  (a bit of a difference!).  That being the case I had planned to get Aurelie and the kids up early one morning and go to take a look (generally visibility is best early in the mornings before the clouds close in) but it appears that this eruption is already coming to an end - next time though!

NPR - On the Road in Reunion

A NPR reporter, Emma Jacobs, arrived on Reunion last week.  She will be here for a couple of months reporting from the island on NPR's On the Road Tumblr so it will be interesting to see her take on Island life!

Friday, January 9, 2015

Playing in the Alps

We are over in Europe at the moment seeing family and friends in France and Ireland. One of the big things tha Sam and Ela have been looking forward to while here is snow.  In fact as far as they are concerned Ireland and France are snowy winter wonderlands (the two winters before we left for Réunion in 2010 and 2011 were amongst the snowiest in my lifetime) so as there has been no snow in Lyon we decided to head a bit up the road into the Alps for a day!

Sam, Ela, Papi and I bundled into the car and headed up past Grenoble for the day. There had been a big snowfall the week before and while much of it had melted by the time we got there there was still plenty to find when we got a bit higher up to the first ski stations.

So although the snow was not the right kind for snowmen (too icy) lots of fun was had, daddy got rugby tackled into the snow by both his loving children and a major item got marked off the holiday to do list!

Sam exploring a pristine snow field

Sam and Ela running in the snow