Tag Archives: weather

A selection of recent happenings.

26 Sep

I seem to have slipped into a bad (or good/restrained?) habit of posting just once every month, and therefore have a number of incidents to recount.

(1) The time I rescued a sea turtle: I like that as a title. It makes me appear to be some sort bizarre mixture between Dr Doolittle and Florence Nightingale. (Advance apologies to my family, who have already had this story recounted to them at length via email. One has to make the most of these positive PR opportunities). I was walking along Lumley beach by myself at about 5pm (I do this often – it’s about 7km all the way down so a pleasant hour and a half stroll) when I saw something in the distance ahead of me that looked like a couple of men playing with a giant flying saucer. As I got closer I became increasingly convinced that what I was looking at was not, in fact, a UFO, but instead was a sea turtle. It was about 70cm across the shell, and very much alive. I managed to glean from the fishermen that it had got stuck in their nets, and done considerable damage. They were being horrible to it (turning it upside down, kicking it etc), and planning to eat it, but through extensive shouting/bargaining I managed to bribe them to release it back into the sea. It looked a little stunned, but did swim off. They’re very odd creatures, and I kept having flashbacks of the turtles in the brilliant animated film ‘Finding Nemo’. For the next hour or so I walked around in a haze of self-congratulation, until one of my more cynical friends pointed out that my intervention probably made no difference because one of the following probably happened: (a) they were going to release it anyway, (b) it did not survive the ordeal and died slowly and painfully at sea, or (c) the fishermen just went out and caught it again. Said ‘friend’ implied that I had probably just been scammed out of $10. Note to self: find less cynical/realistic friends, and surround self instead with turtle-loving optimists.

(2) The time it got cold in Freetown: Any of you who read this blog with any sort of regularity will know that complaining about the weather is one of my favourite pastimes. Life in Freetown segued seamlessly this year from being too hot to being too wet, with nary an appropriately weathered moment in the middle. I complained about this. A lot. Well, on Sunday it did not rain, and is was not too hot. It was, in fact, too cold. I had ventured to the beach for the first time since June and was forced to sit in a shivery and inadequately clad heap, rather than indulging in a little swim and then poncing around in my new rather-fetching kaftan. It was horrible. I shall never complain about Freetown’s customary weather ever again. (Well…). My food also took over two hours to come, which improved my mood not a lot. I’ve never been good at being either cold or hungry, so I suspect I may have to spend a large portion of my remaining time here making up to various friends for spending the whole day being a miserable sod.

(3) The time I lost my sole: This story may contain a sense of urgency missing in the two above because this time is, well, today. I ventured to Congo Market for the first time yesterday. I actually hadn’t heard about it last week, which, given my (self-professed) status as Freetown’s Premier Shopping Expert was really rather surprising. It is basically an amorphous collection of the stalls that are usually spread across the city in one place at one time. It’s manic. I was jogged and heckled more than I have ever been in Sierra Leone, but I also found more TREASURE than on any other single expedition. I’m going through a silk phase (it’s just so cool, and it feels so nice!) and I bought eight silk tops, two skirts (one silk), a pair of silk trousers and two pairs of shoes (one suede Russell and Bromley flats and one pair Italian leather heels). Today I wore the last of these to work. I don’t wear heels often, and am therefore not very good at navigating the hazards of doing so, but I rather enjoyed the unfamiliar teeter-y sensation as I left the house. As I got off my motorbike (NB I was not driving) outside the Bank, however, I slightly kicked a flagstone and basically knocked the entire sole of my shoe. I ummed and aahed about going home to change vs. soldiering on, but eventually decided on the latter (the traffic at that time of day is dire). By the time I got to my desk I was basically forced to kick up my sole in front of me on each step to avoid tripping over it, which entirely spoiled the unaccustomed ‘heel wiggle’ that I’d been so enjoying. Serves me right. I have been desk-bound all day, making increasingly bizarre excuses as to why I cannot go to see the Governor/go to lunch/fill up my water bottle. Back to the trusty flats tomorrow I think…

(4) I am moving house this evening. I took a load of stuff home with me when I went on leave in July, and therefore fondly imagined that 2 suitcases would be easily sufficient to transport my possessions to my new residence. Not so; the volume of my clothing is really quite staggering. Perhaps I’d better not make too many more trips to Congo Market…

In which the heavens open.

29 Jun

I make no pretence of being a scientist.  Technology baffles me, and l’m simply not one of those people who had to know ‘how things work’; as far as I’m concerned what happens when one turns one’s key in the ignition is magic (or, with my car, nothing whatsoever).  Over the last few weeks I have, however, been pondering a scientific problem or, more accurately, a meteorological problem:


How is it possible that the sky can hold as much rain as has fallen on the baking streets of Freetown in the last month or so?  HOW?  I simply do not understand how it can be non-stop sunny for 8 months, and then non-stop rainy for 4.  Where is the evaporated water being stored?  And, more importantly, WHY? 


I read somewhere that in the UK we have 13 commonly used words for precipitation, but none of them are apposite for rainy season in West Africa.  Deluge probably comes closest, but this to me implies a sort of brevity of phenomenon which is fundamentally lacking from weather patterns here.  Compared to Sierra Leone the UK of my memory is an arid wasteland.  Probably the most helpful analogy here is that of the shower.  The power shower.  Imagine a state-of-the-art showerhead that is about 300 miles across, and you’ll have some idea about Sierra Leone in from June to September.  Yup, that’s right.  This is just the beginning…  August is, apparently, far worse.


At the moment it does not rain every day, and only about one day in five is a complete right off.  Most days involve just an hour long shower in the morning, and then rain in the evening and/or during the night…  A welcome side-effect of the rain is that sunsets, having simply involved the sun vanishing behind a haze or dust for the last six months, have suddenly become a spectacular riot of blues, golds and pinks.  I have taken, of an evening, to strolling the 3-4km along Lumley Beach and back to enjoy the breeze and marvel over the daily gift that is the sinking of our life-giving ball of flaming gas.  This routine change is proving to be both good for the soul, and may even end of being good for the waistline.  It is, however, also hazardous.  Last week as I walked, eyes fixed on the glorious horizon (I think I was attempting to spot cloud dragons), I reflected on how wonderful life was.  Sierra Leone, however, was reluctant to let me wallow in self-congratulation regarding my life decisions… I suddenly became aware of ‘a presence’ at my back, and turned to see an entirely different world behind me – where the sky to the west was lit with a soft, gentle powder pink light, that to the east was as menacing a prospect as I have ever seen.  The sky was a harsh powder grey, and liberally dashed with black clouds that were definitely heading in my direction.  The sky was, well, brooding.  I was exactly half way along the beach, and had therefore virtually no chance of getting any sort of lift.  In a stunning volte face, I reflected that life well and truly sucked.  But, yet again, Sierra Leone had other ideas – the rain that had seemed so inevitable simply and unbelievably melted away, leaving a sky that was once again placid.  This happens so frequently (though not frequently enough!) that there is a phrase for it in Krio – “di rehn mek magigi”, which means “the rain looks like it’s going to come but doesn’t”.  Rather neat, I think.


The uber-deluge poses all sorts of day-to-day difficulties – one has to learn to be incredibly flexible about meetings and social arrangements, spaces in a taxi become much rarer than precious stones (this is, after all, the land of Blood Diamond) and it’s almost impossible to take a step indoors without tripping over a drying umbrella or slipping in its accompanying puddle.  More serious (obviously) is that the change of season requires a significant wardrobe adjustment… 

  • It is suicide to leave the house without a waterproof jacket and/or umbrella.  Particularly if wearing a white shirt.  (And yes, I do speak from experience).
  • Footwear decisions become impossible.  Normal (leather) shoes quickly become ruined, but flip-flops simply spray mud and water of questionable cleanliness all over the back of one’s legs.  Many resort of the wellington boot, but these are rather warm (rain does not mean cold, but instead that dry heat is swapped for a lovely sauna type heat), and walking sandals are both horrid and not kosher for work.  I recently found the perfect pair of plastic jelly-shoe type slip-ons, which I have been wearing everywhere, but yesterday I spotted a little tear in the plastic and I fear they’ve on their way out, and that I shall therefore be plunged back into the abyss of lack-of-suitable-footwear-gloom.
  • The problem is not just confined to the clothes that one does wear… the clothes that one does not wear present similar difficulties.  Such is the level of humidity that anything made of natural fabrics (ie leather, silk, wool, untreated cotton)is inclined to grow a charming layer of mould.  MOULD.  I love my belts a borderline unhealthy amount, and it is therefore torture for me to see them suffer and sicken in this way.  I plan to take all non-essential items home with me next month, and to bring back litres of protective spray for the remainder.  Until then I must simply continue to fight off the nightmares of disintegrating clothes that plague my sleep.


All of the above may seem rather depressing, but (with the exception of the mould, which has no silver lining whatsoever) I am rather enjoying the challenges of the new season.  The mood of plucky optimism has been considerably enhanced by a recent purchase; one of my standard ‘junks’ perusals last week hit the jackpot – I spotted a promising corner of canvas, which I pounced on and, after removing the approximately 2 tonnes of clothing on top of it, I was soon the proud owner of a bright yellow hooded mackintosh with a lining of green spouting whales on navy blue.   This garment is, if I may say so myself, both functional and adorable, and I now feel ready to face whatever rain this country can throw at me.


And if this new purchase optimism should begin to fade I can always comfort myself with the thought that current weather conditions seems to be even worse in the UK…