02 février 2015


      On my last day in Lille, H had to work all day, so I dropped him off at his school, planning to go back down to Lille and across to Roubaix, where I'd heard there was an interesting exhibition about Camille Claudel as well as 500 or so wool soldiers that local artists had made. The enormous traffic jams going into Lille made me change my mind, so I drove up to Dunkirk instead. Please bear in mind that it was 8 or 9 a.m., not fully light yet, and -1°C. Drove through Dunkirk, making a royal mess of the traffic... [Lire la suite]

27 octobre 2014


        "Salam aleikoum." "Aleikoum salam. Gawamnono?" "Ndjema, hamdulillah!"   I've just got back from a week's holiday in Ngazidja, the largest of the four Comoros islands. They are known as Ngazidja (Grande Comore), Mwali (Mohéli), Ndzuani (Anjouan) and Maoré (Mayotte). The last one is the subject of quite a lot of debate, as Mayotte belongs geographically to the Comoros archipel, but is administratively claimed by France. The Mahorese have taken this opportunity to lord it over the other... [Lire la suite]
14 avril 2014


The village I live in is called Majicavo. Literally, it means "where there is no water". Like all Mahorese villages, it's a very poor place, but near enough to the capital (Mamoudzou) for people to want to be modern and Westernized. Also like all Mahorese villages, it has a lot of shops, known as doukas, and small local restaurants, called brochetti or brochetterie because they sell mainly chicken wings and kebabs of meat or fish. They have names such as "Welcome Mayotte", "Mastéréhi" ("Enjoy your meal and be at rest"),... [Lire la suite]
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24 février 2014

Put it on your head.

         A series of rather interesting postcards has been released recently. They're all drawings of scenes in Mayotte. My favourite is the one above, as it's a mixture of two scenes I come across very regularly. Scooters here aren't just a quick way of getting from point A to point B. They're a fully-fledged means of transport for both people and merchandise. It's not rare to see scooters with not only two people, sometimes three, but also a huge sack of rice, a full bunch of bananas or a cubic metre of... [Lire la suite]
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30 décembre 2013

Sleeping Bouéni

            In England or France, shopkeepers and shop assistants are always on their toes. And on yours, half of the time. They're always alert, they're always looking for something to offer you to make you stay a little longer and buy something else. They'll say hello, they'll ask you questions, they'll offer to take your things for you and they'll find stuff you can't. Then, when you've bought whatever it is and are ready to leave, they'll wish you a nice day and request that you come again, as your... [Lire la suite]
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25 mars 2013

The North from East to West

                   When P was here, he wanted to see if his scooter still worked. As I hadn't gone anywhere near it for the past few months, it didn't start. P pulled bits of it out and put it all back together, gave it some petrol and kept trying, and it started a couple of days later. So to make sure it kept working, he wanted to go on a fairly long trip with it. As we hadn't yet explored the north of Mayotte - too busy when he was here, and I'm not doing that on my own - we... [Lire la suite]
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14 janvier 2013

Food Shopping

                   P went back to France at the beginning of December. At one point, he had to go to the local supermarket to forage for food. He went round the supermarket with his mouth hanging open, so many products were there. So many products, and so many varieties of each product. The supermarket was a third of the size of the local Jumbo Score in Majicavo-Lamir, but there were easily three times as many products. Then, he went to pay for his shopping. Second shock. A basket... [Lire la suite]
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07 janvier 2013

Out of Place

                     Mayotte is a strange place to live in. On one hand, the country is a French department and has belonged to France for over a hundred years. You can find La Poste and the Conseil Général, every village has a Mairie (town hall) and often a boulangerie (baker's). Most people speak fairly fluent French. The school curriculum, the police and gendarmerie, the military system and the hospitals follow the same directions as in France. You can live among all-white... [Lire la suite]
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28 novembre 2011

What Not To Wear

               Before coming to Mayotte, I’d looked them up in books and on websites, talked to people about them, looked into what was available locally. I’d looked into the materials that went into making them and how said materials would stand the test of time, humidity, dust and daily use. I’d asked about religious customs, what was acceptable and what wasn’t. I’d bought plenty over the Internet and in shops in Poitiers. I felt ready, or if I wasn’t, it’d... [Lire la suite]
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22 octobre 2011

Sans Queue Ni Tête

  A rather eventful morning today, because as it’s been fairly calm for the last 24 hours, I wanted to see if the supermarkets had reopened. Unprepared as always, I saw a great long queue in front of the local Sodifram and decided to join the fray. Again, the supermarket was so full that customers were waiting outside, only allowed inside twenty or so at a time. 9.30 a.m. : Arrived at supermarket and joined a queue of a hundred or so people. Some white, some black. Some waiting patiently in line, some pushing in from the... [Lire la suite]
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