In the footsteps of Cetshwayo – helping the children of Isandlwana

Heather and Tony with Mxilosi
Heather and Tony with Mxilosi

Local bar owner Tony Gates has always been fascinated by history. The epic movie, “Zulu”, starring Michael Caine, had in particular ignited in him an avid interest in the Anglo-Zulu war. A few years ago, Tony and Hev decided to visit South Africa on their annual holiday and included in their itinerary a tiny rural Zulu village that was the site of the first major encounter between the British Empire and the Zulu Kingdom.

The Battle of Isadlawana took place on the 22nd of January 1879. Eleven days after the British commenced their invasion of Zululand, a Zulu army, some 20,000 strong, attacked a portion of the British main column of 1,800 colonial and native troops, including approximately 400 civilians.  The Zulus were for the most part equipped with their traditional weapons, iron spears called assegais and cow-hide shields, some had a few old muskets and rifles, but little ammunition and no training in their use. The British forces were armed with “state-of-the-art” Martini-Henry breech-loading rifles and two seven-pounder artillery pieces, as well as a rocket battery.

Despite the clear disadvantage in terms of weapons technology, the numerically superior Zulus fought with a passion and military strategy that the poorly led and badly deployed British did not expect.  The Zulu army overwhelmed the British, killing over 1,300 troops, including the entire forward firing line. The Zulus only lost 1,000 troops. The crushing victory saw one of the bloodiest defeats for the British Army against an inferior indigenous force. The defeat at Isandlwana resulted in the British taking a more aggressive approach to the war, leading to a heavily reinforced second invasion and the destruction of Zulu King Cetshwayo’s hopes of negotiating peace.

Overlooking this scene of high drama, Tony and Hev stayed at the luxurious Isandlwana Lodge which was the first tourism project in KwaZulu-Natal between a traditional community and some international private investors. At this lodge, Tony and Hev learnt about the amazing partnership between the impoverished local community, (who had been left this land by their heroic ancestors), and two amazing American ladies, Pat Stubbs and Maggie Bryant. Pat has spent the last 13 years running and marketing this enigmatically beautiful cultural historical landscape. But Pat Stubbs has a mission which is way beyond just showing tourists history. She also shows them the reality of the present day battles fought by this welcoming community for their daily survival. Because of its remote location and the lack of industry and arable land, the Battlefield and traditional Zulu culture has remained intact, but it has come at a price. Most families survive off subsistence farming or social welfare grants paid to the elderly grandmothers who take care of their grandchildren whilst their husbands and children do migrant work in the far away cities.

Education is substandard, with a lack of classrooms, teaching materials and teachers, there is no significant infrastructure in terms of running water and electricity in most households and health care is basic. The HIV epidemic has also left deep scars in the village, with more than 90 children left orphaned, some themselves infected from birth and many struggling in child-headed households.

fathoms480-2

Pat and Maggie partnered with the traditional council, the local schools and the USA-based WILD Foundation to bring some sustainable change to this rural community. One of the initiatives launched by Pat is a Village Walk, which allows guests to interact with the local community and learn about Zulu culture and experience the warm hospitality of these beautiful people despite the challenges they face. Families who welcome guests into their homes all benefit from this excursion.  Soon Pat’s guests asked about how they could make a contribution to her work in the village and she launched an “Adopt-a-Child” programme which allowed guests who were interested to sponsor the school fees and school uniform of one of the village orphans. Tony and Hev were not shy to become involved and on their first stay sponsored two young boys from the village. And Africa had got under their skin and they headed home with the intention of coming back on their next holiday.

Tony and Hev went back to their home in Spain and spoke to their many friends and the patrons of their “Fathoms” pub about their visit to South Africa and how they fell compelled to make a difference in the life of the children of Isandlwana village.  On their next visit, they had successfully raised a significant amount of money to assist even more youngsters with getting an education and launched the Fathoms’ bursary.  The bursary resulted in 6 students being selected for support programmes, one of whom was the eldest orphan boy who Tony and Hev sponsored on their first visit, Goodenough Njoko. Goodenough had lost both his parents to HIV and was being raised by his grandmother.

Tony and Hev have just returned from a visit to the village. They were delighted to find out that their first “son” from the village, Goodenough, who had aspirations to study medicine but at the time that they met him, could not even afford to go to school, had with their assistance managed not only to complete his schooling, but had found in their support the flicker of hope to drive him to be the best he can. Despite the poor educational and social environment that he was caught in, he had found someone to believe in him and he achieved academic results good enough to secure a government scholarship to study medicine in Cuba.  Goodenough is the first person from this village to study abroad and will be the first medical doctor to come from this community.

In addition two other young men have also been given the opportunity to forge a future for themselves. Siphamandla Ntanzi had dreams of studying electrical engineering but a complete lack of maths and science teachers made it impossible for him to obtain the necessary grades during his final school year to allow him entry into this field of study. After meeting Tony and Hev at the lodge, Sipha had been convinced to go back to school and try and improve his marks.  The Fathoms bursary allowed him to go and repeat his year at a school in the city. But during this time he not only improved his marks, he also learnt something about himself. He decided that if Tony and Hev wanted to make a difference to his community, he wanted to do the same. He decided that the best way to do this was by becoming a teacher himself so that he could go back to his village and teach mathematics and science. Sipha has now been accepted for a teaching degree.

Thulani Khumalo started studying a diploma in Electrical Engineering at a small college with the assistance of the Fathoms Bursary. After his first year of study he produced pleasing enough results to secure a bursary to continue his diploma at a better institution.

Tony and Hev continue to sponsor the education and uniform of one of the village orphans, Mxolisi Mabaso, who has two years of schooling left. They have high hopes for him and will continue to assist with raising funds for the village project through Fathoms.

Thanks to all the patrons of Fathoms dreams have been made a reality.

For further information contact: Tony and Hev Gates: hevtone@hotmail.com

Bad Moon Rising – Local author’s latest novel pleases the critics

Bad Moon Rising

Bad Moon Rising is a dark psychological thriller and I rarely read dark psychological thrillers but on my response to this one, I should really give more a shot. Di Plino’s novel is sensational, a complete hit with me and I just think it is fantastic. Once I got to the end it reminded me of the best of Cracker and Prime Suspect stuffed together to make a truly thrilling novel. The premise of the novel seems quite generic but as soon as you get into it you realise just how dark and twisted things really are and several characters are set up as the potential serial killer. Pure brilliance.

The best thing about this novel is how it builds, di Plino switches between different narrative perspectives, from watching DI Storey at work, in his ‘leisure time’ and in between to attempting to put across the ravings of the ‘chosen one’ in the form of the serial killer. Once the truth became apparent (only in the last…fifth of the book, I’d say) I was desperate to see the outcome, especially when it came down the scientific side of things.

As well as the killer and DI Storey, we’re given snapshots of the story from the point of view of  criminal pathologist Barbara, who makes a discovery which is key to the whole investigation and leads to the climactic conclusion. Although I usually have no keen interest in the CSI/forensic side of things, the discovery in di Plino’s novel is fascinating and horrific simultaneously and although it’s hinted at from the very beginning I could not possibly have guessed.

DI Storey’s personal story reminded me again of Cracker and the personal trials of Robbie Coltrane’s character throughout the series. By hearing the personal experiences and thoughts of the DI it makes the whole story more genuine and multidimensional rather than being just a straightforward cop catches killer (or not) tale.

Bad Moon Rising is a cleverly written, sharp novel which is the literary equivalent of some of my favourite gritty crime dramas and with the writing prowess of such script writers as Jimmy McGovern and Paul Abbott. Frances di Plino could seriously go far. In fact, I’d love to see Bad Moon Rising dramatised.

This review originally appeared on the Judging Covers Review website.

Frances di Plino is the pseudonym of columnist, editor, non-fiction author, short story writer and writing tutor, Lorraine Mace. Writing as Frances di Plino gives her the opportunity to allow the dark side of her personality to surface and take control. She is currently working on Someday Never Comes, the next in the Paolo Storey series.

Bad Moon Rising is available in paperback locally from The English Bookshop in Sabinillas. It is also available in paperback and e-book from Amazon and other online bookstores, including WH Smiths, Waterstones, Barnes and Nobel and Tesco.

Local author does it again, and again!

The Prince's Lady

Mary Chiappe, author of The Grapes of Warmth, the only book in English about Manilva, its environs, and much more, has followed it up with her first solo novel, Mosaic of an Unquiet Time, which appeared in June this year.

“It is set in 1963 in an imaginary British colony off the coast of Portugal. Probably the best thing I have written to date,” she says. “It is about a time of change as seen through the lives of five major characters with their loves and problems, whether these involve religion, sex or politics. I’d say it’s a many-layered book to be enjoyed and re-read!”

Mary has, concurrently, been writing whodunits with a childhood friend, Dr Sam Benady, a paediatrician and amateur historian. The Bresciano Mysteries are set in the late 18th and early 19th centuries in Gibraltar, Morocco and Spain. Their fourth novel, The Prince’s Lady, was launched on 6th November.

“We plan a rough outline of the book and get splendid ideas that later – as we attempt to wrestle with the logistics involved – land us in the soup. Further meetings are involved… a good excuse to get together for a tasty lunch… as the book develops and expands and we have to keep adjusting and readjusting and abandoning old ideas or accommodating new ones. Our best-laid plans can certainly go awry, and often do!

“We write a chapter apiece and constantly revise each other’s work – suggesting changes and pointing out errors or inconsistencies and dealing with all the niggling details that require adjustment – from punctuation to characterisation. By the end of it all, it often becomes impossible to remember who wrote what.”

The books feature a local man, an Anglo-Genoese amateur investigator. Bresciano has a talent for spotting anomalies and clues – without always drawing the right conclusions at the time, but, like the Canadian Mounties… he always gets his man (or woman!) in the end.

While the central character – Giovanni Bresciano – is fictional, many of those he works or deals with are real historical personalities connected with Gibraltar. They can range from Governor Eliott or General O’Hara, to Sergeant Miles who became one of Gibraltar’s first policemen and Abraham Hassan, the only local man to volunteer and be recruited into the army during the Great Siege – both their descendants are still around.

Books may even feature someone else’s fictional character – like Captain Wentworth from Jane Austen’s Persuasion.

The books have attracted good reviews both locally and in the UK in “Historical Novels Review”.

The Murder in Whirligig Lane “passes the Good Mystery Test, because the dénouement is unforeseeable, in spite of a generous supply of clues, and yet plausible. I read it at one sitting, and look forward to Bresciano’s next case.” Alan Fisk. Historical Novels Review, U.K.

Fall of a Sparrow  “An unusual crime novel… an unconventional hero… an interesting setting… a very enjoyable read.” Lynn Guest. Historical Novels Review, U.K.

The Pearls of Tangier “Well plotted… and characters strongly conveyed. The time period… and the exotic setting permeate the novel without overpowering the action or the characters. I thoroughly enjoyed (it). Recommended.” Anne Northfield. Historical Novels Review, U.K.

And now we have the latest book of the series: The Prince’s Lady. The book centres round Prince Edward, fourth son of George III, who is posted to Gibraltar in disgrace in 1790-91 to serve as a young Colonel. He is the man who will, many years later, father a child who will ascend the throne of England as Queen Victoria. As the novel opens, he is living contentedly with his mistress, a cultured French Baroness. They rent a house in Spain for occasional use. All is well until the morning when the Lady vanishes. Has she suffered an accident when riding out? Has she fled to the arms of a new lover? Or is it something more sinister? And there are bandoliers in the area – desperate and violent men…

And over the week that follows, Bresciano becomes involved in a flight that may turn out to be an abduction; he faces the Giants with their fearsome reputation; and is horrified by the murder of an innocent accessory. And it all has to be unravelled before the wind blows from the west – or from the east – for both become crucial either to the villain or the Prince… and to Bresciano himself, for the east wind may take the woman he loves away to the opposite side of the world.

Books are available from the English Bookshop in Sabinillas as well as in bookshops in Gibraltar and at Longman’s in Estepona. Steve at the English Bookshop is planning an Author’s Day when you can meet Mary and get your copy of the books signed.

The English Bookshop – a growing business

The English Bookshop in Sabinillas

In these difficult economic times it’s always good to see local businesses expanding, as is the case with the English Bookshop in Sabinillas. recently the shop has been extended more than doubling the shop area.

This has allowed owner Steve to extend the range of products now available which include: Stationery, gift mugs, keyrings, diaries, calendars, etc. The range of greetings cards has been tripled, as has the selection of books with children’s books, books by local authors, full selection of fiction and non-fiction. The shop also now features a dedicated party section including helium balloons.

The English Bookshop is also an official agent for Hits Mobile, and you can buy mobile phones, sim cards, credit, and they will also soon be stocking smart phones.

If you are one of those who is reluctant to trust your mail to Correos then you can take advantage of the reliable, first class postal service for sending and receiving your mail to or from the UK and rest of the world offered by Offex for whom the English Bookshop is an agent.

All this under the watchful supervision of Eva the parrot who has settle back into the routine after her recent bid for freedom!

For more information contact Steve on 952 891 545 or email steve@sabinillasbookshop.com

Nyland Knight Foundation – helping the children of The Gambia

Kids in Gambia

A holiday in The Gambia some 20 years ago was the catalyst for the establishment of the Nyland Knight Foundation by local resident David Harmston and his wife Terri.

What began with the sponsorship of a single child has grown to the extent that the foundation now provides funding for 80 schoolchildren, and has expanded to pay for and manage a whole host of projects in the village of Kunkujang Keita in this small part of a forgotten Africa.

The Gambia is a poor country, and whilst the children in the village are not starving they are so poor they have no shoes and very few clothes, and the school system is not free which means many of the children will never get the opportunity for an education that can free them from the chains of poverty.

It was this fact that prompted David and Terri to become involved as the cost of putting a child through school is just 50 euros a year, a sum which, whilst less than the average round of golf here in Spain, is way beyond the means of most of the villagers.

For the first few years David and Terri sponsored one child, but a chance conversation in a hairdressers in Gibraltar led to a donation providing sponsorship for a further nine, and the Nyland Knight Foundation began to take shape.

Since those early days a number of people have come on board, including Deborah Ives who is extremely active and who was the driving force behind the establishing of a number of regular fundraising events, and who regularly visits the village to deliver donated items and to help oversee the purchases paid for by charity.

In fact one of the important facets of the Nyland Knight Foundation is that all the money is spent on good works, with all expenses incurred paid for by the volunteers and organisers themselves.

As mentioned earlier the Foundation has expanded and now runs a number of projects including a cuts and bruises/small ailments clinic which treats around 600 children a year; a dental hygiene programme; malaria prevention programme; provides chickens and goats to promote self-sufficiency; runs the village football team; and so on.

Apart from individuals, a number of businesses and organisations provide support, including The Mayfair Academy which last year raised over 1,700 euros. The Pig and Whistle Pub in Gibraltar along with 888.com are also major contributors.

Nyland Knight Foundation has a whole list of projects for the future which you can find on their website www.nylandknight.com and on their facebook page www.facebook.com/groups/123783964396496 so if you would like to assist why not contact them via these sites and find out how you can help and make a real difference. Don’t forget every single penny goes to help the villagers.

A Taste of Africa – Campbell’s Biltong and The Flame Grill

Campbell’s Biltong and The Flame Grill

If you attend some of the many outdoor events that take place in Manilva, you will probably by now have come across local couple Ron and Eileen Campbell and The Flame Grill catering van.

Ron and Eileen, both Rhodesians, moved to Manilva from the UK in the last couple of years and have begun to make a name for themselves supplying traditional southern African favourites, such as biltong, boerewors sausages, and their variation on that theme, the boerewors burger.

Ron and Eileen left Rhodesia some twelve years ago and headed for the UK, just two of the many who left behind the political uncertainty of Mugabe’s Zimbabwe with the intention of returning once the dust had settled.

Back in the old country Ron had taken an interest in producing biltong, a form of air dried meat, using a process he learnt from Eileen’s uncle who was a butcher, and over the years they developed their own methods and recipes.

After a couple of years in the UK a chance meeting with another Rhodesian, who worked in an abattoir, led to Ron and Eileen picking up the butcher’s knives and once again began producing their biltong and sausages.

Ron went online and discovered a large number of fellow expatriate Rhodesians and South Africans and soon built up a mailing list of some 3,000 people eager for a taste of home. Very soon they were packing off parcels of their products across the UK and overseas, and in a move to expand
their market they purchased an old hot dog van which they cleaned up and named The Flame Lilly, which is the national symbol of Rhodesia.

A close encounter with a tree necessitated some redecoration of the van, which led to it being renamed The Flame Grill, a name which it retains to this day.

The couple would travel all over the UK during the summer attending, fairs, balloon festivals, etc. and it was during this time that they developed the boerewors burger. Boerewors, literarily ‘Farmer’s Sausage’ in Afrikaans, is a 100% meat sausage made of pork and beef with a few added spices, which is very popular with southern Africans who will chuck it on the ‘Braai’ or grill and wash it down with a cold beer. Although popular with their fellow Africans it didn’t seem to have the same appeal with the British public. It was then they hit on the idea of using the same mix but made into a burger pattie, the rest is as they say is history. People would be queueing up at The Flame Grill to get their fix of this culinary delight.

Another attraction of their products is that they are free from any artificial additives, and being 100% meat are gluten free.

As with many people it was the climate in the UK that led to the Campbell’s move to Spain. A particularly wet summer led to the cancellation of many of the events the couple had lined up.

So they rented out their home, hitched up The Flame Grill to their Land Rover and hauled the entire outfit down to Spain where they settled in Manilva.

Once here they soon began producing their famous biltong which is made by marinading the meat in beer or vinegar and their own particular blend of spices, before hanging it up to air dry for from three to five days, depending on the climatic conditions.

In the couple of years that Ron and Eileen have been in Manilva they have already built up an extensive customer base and have begun exporting their products across Europe.

If you want to know more about Campbell’s Biltong and The Flame Grill products then visit their website at www.biltongspain.com or call them on +34 951 277 105.