Monday, 24 April 2017

Fairy Lights

So, what happens when you get two girls and 50m of fairy lights together?

Not a lot.

What happens if you add two bottles of wine, a bottle of port and some sanity-bending pastis?

A two-woman rock fest and a hangover that lasts the entire weekend.

My Brain on the Floor

We were going to recreate our pub crawl, but child care backed out so we started off very civilly in the garden. I still had a bottle of red left over from my birthday. A friend had broken the corkscrew in it, so it's taken until now to get the cork out.

Anyway, I'm really, really excited because Kigali is about to have its first ever rock night next month. I'm desperately missing my piercings and determined to find some black lipstick and carve pumpkins. Check out these incredible pictures from the Botswana metal scene.

It's been so many years that I've requested an old rockers' corner featuring comfy cushions, a water dispenser and possibly a neck brace.

I've persuaded Maia to come with me. Actually, she didn't take much persuading. But after the second bottle of wine she asked for an introduction to rock music. I promptly took her through Kerrang (Limp Bizkit, Sum41, Lit) through the classics (Chilis, Alice Cooper, House of Pain) up to the meaty classics (Rage Against the Machine (Christmas #1 in the UK, 2009), Drowning Pool, Metallica).

The Enchantress, Suicide Squad

We started with Metallica and ended up with John Lennon, Oh Yoko - which I think is my overriding tune of the night. Dancing like lunatics, covered in fairy lights. 

Meanwhile, I started out in a suit and tie, and ended up in somebody else's dress!

Now that isn't normal...

But, you know what? Even that can be uber rock.

(Bad) Attitude, Baby

EvErY bOdY iN tHe WoRlD dEsErVeS fAiRy LiGhTs!

Monday, 17 April 2017

Five Bar Bonanza

L-R: Me, Celia, Michelle and Tracey

Girls on tour. The lovely ladies of the Maasai. Ceilia just got her photos in order and sent this. Think there are some more from the album, I'll raid it later.

Right. Let's get piano news out of the way first.

The past week has been utterly gruelling. Gaston came back with the video and I put it up on Indiegogo. It's been one week now and we're 15% funded, but wow - what a week. I had no idea how hard a crowdfunder is. It's 24/7 social media deployment. My fingers are seizing up from typing so many 'please can you...' e-mails.

So, please, please can you share the Indiegogo campaign with as many people as you can reach:

Seriously grateful for any assistance getting the word out. I'm even offering free piano tuning in Kigali for people willing to help me raise contributions.

There's also a Facebook page and Twitter feed.

On a similar note (ho, ho), I undertook some major maintenance this week. A little while back I was called out to the Korean church in Kinyinya. Somehow, their pianist had managed to cut five bass strings! No idea how that happened. I helped them identify what they needed to order, and it came through. So, two hours of fairly sweat-drenched restringing. All looking good now. Going back to do a proper tuning once the new strings have settled.

It was a real workout. Pianos are very physically demanding. But it was a lot of laughs.

What else has been going on? Well, I walked into a bookstore to find myself on display. Was totally thrilled. Massive thank you to Haepi Bookstore. They rock. I thought about signing them, but chickened out. I'll go back in the week and pluck up the courage.

Unfortunately, no more writing has been done for about a month. My laptop's hard drive melted after only four months. I took it back to the shop which sold it to me along with a one-year warranty. The place has the HP logo all over it, and on the website. They're apparently an official partner (which I've since learnt means bugger all in terms of customer protection).

It went from the bizarre to the ridiculous. After trying to tell me a warranty meant I had to pay for parts, the manager resorted to communicating in emojis:

He insisted on calling me 'young lady' (that's sweet, I'm really not), told me not to contact him again, then threatened me after I mentioned it on a local expat forum, telling me to 'be careful' and saying he was going to report me.

A total and complete weirdo.

His technician called once to tell me he wasn't sure how much it was going to cost, but he'd let me know. When I pressed further, he hung up. I called five times over a fortnight, and sent two SMS - no response.

Eventually HP had to launch an official investigation. I got the laptop back - it was still at the store. Hadn't been touched. Took it to the official HP servicer. They were much better and fixed the problem without charging me or threatening me - or even calling me 'young lady'. Gone straight to the top of my customer service list.


Anyway, after all of that, and the crowdfunder, I haven't had the energy to transfer everything onto my revitalised laptop, so I'm still using my old one with a clunky USB keyboard. I can manage e-mails, but a novel is improbable. I'll eventually get set up again and resume writing.

Meanwhile, my cats have full use of the writing desk.

Talking of which, I tried out that thing from Instagram. Y'know, if you tape a square to the floor, cats apparently get in it, like a box. There's loads of pictures of cats sitting in tape squares. Not mine...

In between all the chaos and mayhem, there has been time for a little relaxation. Beautiful blue skies and a healthy breakfast at Inzora.

I hadn't had a drink in almost a fortnight. The girls went off to Dubai, and I've been so focused on the piano idea. Did a lot of making up for that last night. Maia invited me over for a beer at her bar. It was really quiet as it was Easter Sunday and everyone was probably too full of chocolate. We decided to go for a walk.

We found a nice little bar down a backstreet and decided to stop for a beer. It didn't have a name, but the lighting was pretty.

We kept walking and found the road that runs behind the library. Kigali can be extremely confusing in that it's one big crown of buildings on top of several hills, so there are many different ways to get to the same place, and you're never sure quite which direction you're going in. To this moment I'm not sure quite how we walked one way and ended up over there. But we found another local bar and decided to stop for a drink

Unfortunately, we could only have one there because - toilet. Sanitation can be a little hit and miss. In this case, someone had definitely missed. There was a big poo on the toilet seat. But a little further down the road, there was another nice, nameless, bar. So we decided to stop for brochettes... and beer.

We took one drunken selfie that came out so badly we couldn't stop laughing. Luckily, this place had a decent toilet. We continued along the road, freaked ourselves out looking at a ghostly restaurant turned empty flat, and an abandoned building site - spooky. Then ended up at the top of the road leading home. Just across that road was another bar. What could we do?

It was a tiny little place, barely room for ten people, but we were made to feel welcome, and the fairy lights were pretty. Downed our last drink of the night and wandered our way sleepily down the hill.

Felt a bit like this in the morning:

Friday, 31 March 2017

That's a Wrap


Actually found some pictures of me from the film shoot.

Hanging With Karabona

Chatting to Desiré
Got the final filming done yesterday. Involved me walking down a long road and standing, staring at the view of Kigali whilst perfecting a 'turn with a smile' which will probably appear more as a grimace. I hate being filmed! 

Beautiful View of Kigali
Walking home from filming, I popped into a bookshop beneath Ubumwe Hotel. I'd seen on their Twitter feed that my book was apparently on sale there. As far as I know, it's the first time I've been stocked at a bookshop I wasn't signing at - just because they wanted to sell it. It was such a cool feeling to walk in and see it stocked alongside some really well known titles. Hugely grateful to Haepi Bookshop. Made my month.

Stopped off at CasaKeza on the way home. I'm currently a teetotal, non-smoking, vegetarian angel, at least until tomorrow. After a particularly painful night out with Maia, I needed to give my body a break. Back on the bandwagon for April though... maybe just the booze. 

Thankfully it was non-alcoholic cocktail tasting day when I turned up. I got one with cherries in.

And whilst I got cocktails, my cats got a bird. They are little killing machines. They bring in countless lizards and cockroaches, but birds are new. They're usually fast enough to escape. Hoping this will be a rare event.

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Lights, Camera, Action

I've got a little project on the go at the moment, so I've copied today's post direct from my project page. If you have any musical friends, I'd hugely appreciate a retweet or link share once the video goes live. We're aiming for the Made in Rwanda Expo at the end of the year.


Meet Gaston.

We've just spent the entire day racing around Kigali filming the team who are going to try to build the first Rwandan piano.

It's been a long road to get here. My friends who were going to help me make the fundraising video suddenly found themselves in the centre of a personal housing crisis, so didn't have any free time. I met a fantastic guy from South Africa who's a really accomplished film maker, but he was a bit out of my price range. Then Gaston was recommended to me as he'd done an Indiegogo film for someone else. I was really impressed by his work and he was within my budget, so we're making it happen.

We started out with a return performance by Paco, who is one of Rwanda's foremost pianists. I asked him to come along to show what a piano is capable of. Even a fifty-year-old upright. Lirika is a 1968 Russian instrument, and she will provide the template for our own model, effectively becoming the mother of all Rwandan pianos.


It was a blazing hot day, so we were all sweating by the end of the interview. I slathered on sun lotion and we hopped motos (public motorbikes - main form of transport in Kigali) over to Karabona's workshop.


Alex Karabona is a Rwandan metal worker with a small foundry. Essentially, everything rests on him, because if we can't forge a string frame, we can't build a piano. All pianos have a string frame, or harp frame, inside, and some hold up to twenty tons of string tension. If it bends even a fraction, everything is lost. The first thing we'll do if we raise the money is take Lirika apart and give the frame to Alex to see whether he can recreate it. He's feeling confident, and he smiles all the time, so I'm confident that he's confident.

From there, we continued on to Desiré's workshop on the other side of town. Desiré is the carpenter who is going to try to figure out the piano action. If we can build both string frames and actions in Rwanda, we might be able to produce an affordable instrument. For every part we need to import, the price goes north. But along with the string frame, the action is extremely complicated. We won't know for sure that we can do it until we take Lirika's action apart. 


We had a very funny conversation when I asked whether Desiré had any jacaranda wood we could show, because I was hoping we could make the piano from jacaranda. It's very strong and very light in colour, which would make for naturally white keys without having to resort to plastic coverings. 

Desiré looked at me and said he didn't know what jacaranda was, but suggested we use umusave.

I didn't know what umusave was, but it looked right.

I said I liked it.

Gaston smiled and explained 'umusave and jacaranda are the same thing.'

Always reassuring when two people speak different languages but still understand what the other is thinking.

 Umusave/Jacaranda (left), Pine (right)
Both Locally Sourced

Finally there was me. Mostly I'll be trying to stay out of everybody's way, but I hope to rock up at the end to string and tune the new piano. I hate being in front of the camera, so we did my interview last, racing against the setting sun so that I didn't have too much time to think about it. Hopefully it'll be okay. We've got a few last things to shoot in town tomorrow to provide some filler for the video - make it recognisably Kigali. Hoping to have the finished short ready to roll next week. Watch this space.