Posts Tagged ‘Senegal’

June 26th

So it’s the 26th June today. Is that a special day for you? Do you remember it for any reason?: perhaps someone’s birthday; perhaps an anniversary; perhaps special for some other reason like starting a job or moving house or whatever.

I thought I’d look at the day and see if anything of interest happened back in history. It’ll just be a random selection of things which I think were important at the time they happened but which we’re probably not aware of having happened on this day, 26th June.

Here goes then:

1284 – After not having been paid for ridding the town of rats, The Pied Piper of Hamelin allegedly led 130 children out of the town; they disappeared and were never seen again. Interestingly a singer by the name of Crispian St. Peters had a UK hit with a song called The Pied Piper at the end of March 1966; it stayed in the charts for 13 weeks and peaked at number 5; it topped the charts in Canada in July that year. (It was a follow-up to You Were On My Mind earlier that year which got to no.2.) Also I reckon you probably don’t know that Bob Marley’s wife Rita covered the song in 1966. I think it’s a bit strange that there is a pop song about a guy who convinces over 100 kids to follow him and they’re never seen again! Hmmm.. not what you’d immediately think of as a subject for a very happy jolly song-a-long tune.

Here’s the Crispian St. Peters link. Note the pipe seems to have been, not very cleverly, replaced by a laundry basket! Now what’s all that about?

If you fancy a read of Robert Browning’s poem about the Pied Piper then here’s the link. For some reason he gives the year as 1376 but the official Hameln town website goes with 1284. It may take you a few minutes to get through as there are 303 lines but they’re fairly short and I wonder how many of you have ever read the whole thing:

Or if you want to listen to someone else read it and imbue it with a bit of emotion then try these 2 Youtube vids (Parts 1 & 2) which have some nice watercour pics to go along with the sound.

Part 1 –

Part 2 –

1483 Richard Duke of Gloucester began his reign as Richard III. There is a lot on our TVs at the moment about the Tudor period and particularly the various claims to the English throne during the 15th century. It’s believed that Richard got rid of those who stood in his way to the throne of England. His brother Edward IV died through ill health and his other brother George, Duke of Clarence was tried for treason against Edward IV and executed in the Tower of London. That left only the two sons of Edward IV (and Elizabeth Woodville) who had a right to the throne before Richard. He had them imprisoned in the Tower and soon after no more was seen of them: they are often referred to as ‘The Princes in the Tower’. Rumours abound on their fate but the consensus seems to be that Richard III had them killed so that he could become the next in line. The murder of 3 of his family members then enabled him to become King of England; and after all that scheming & plotting his reign lasted just two years. Despite outnumbering Henry’s (future Henry VII) forces by 3:1 Richard was killed in the Battle of Bosworth Field on 22nd August 1485; Henry’s victory brought to a close the medieval period and ushered in 118 years of the Tudor Dynasty (1485-1603).

1824William Thompson (Lord Kelvin) was born. You remember he invented the Kelvin scale of temperature measurement. Centigrade goes from 00 – 1000; for the same range, Fahrenheit goes from 320 – 2120; Kelvin is not a scale in the same way as 0C or 0F but has the absolute zero temp as minus 2730C.

1827William Crompton, inventor of the spinning mule died aged 74. While still only young when his father died he had to work to support the family. He was taught to spin yarn on what was called a “spinning jenny”. Whilst working with this he had an idea of how to improve it and used his spare time and money in developing it.

1843 Britain declared Hong Kong a crown colony. It was of course given back to the Chinese in 1997.

1846 The Corn Laws were passed in Britain. Their purpose was to protect British cereal farmers from the cheap imports in the period 1815-46. However they didn’t work because by keeping the price up (and therefore the profits of the landowners) the average working man could not afford to buy enough to survive. Workers demonstrated demanding higher wages; there were strikes and riots. Eventually the government gave in and in 1846 the law was repealed.

1898Wilhelm Emil Messerschmitt was born. As you see by his name he is the designer of the aircraft named after him. More Messerschmitts were built than any other fighter aircraft in history and they played a key role in WW2.

1906 The first Grand Prix motor race took place at Le Mans. It was run on closed roads outside the city. The original circuit was just over 64 miles (103kms) round. They had to do 6 laps on each of two consecutive days so the total distance was 769 miles (1238kms). The winner was the Hungarian driver, Ferenc Szisz. Today’s circuit is approx ⅛ of the original at just over 13kms (almost 8.5 miles). The distance covered, over the 24 hours, has gradually increased from the 3,000 kms of the early 1930s to the current record (achieved in 2010) of 5,410 kms (3,360 miles). To give you an idea, it’s like driving overland from London to beyond Baghdad (Iraq) or almost as far as Tehran (Iran) or beyond Nouakchott, the capital of Mauretania on the west coast of Africa and almost to Saint Louis just across the border in Senegal or believe it or not to Moscow and back IN A DAY! WOW!!

1926 – Queen Elizabeth II was born. Her current reign, as of today, has lasted 61 years 157 days. In terms of living monarchs, only Rama IX (of Thailand) has reigned longer (just over 67 years). In terms of British monarchs she is also second: Queen Victoria is a couple of years ahead at 63 years 216 days.

1945 – In San Francisco the United Nations Charter was signed by 50 countries. In its preamble one of the stated aims of the organisation was, “to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind…”. What a great pity this hasn’t happened. We may have avoided a Third World War but there are plenty of little ones going on all over our world today and thousands are still dying as a result of them.

1959 – The Queen and President Dwight Eisenhower opened the 2,300 mile St Lawrence Seaway linking the Atlantic Ocean with Duluth, Minnesota on the SW shore of Lake Superior. It had cost $470 million to build and 6,500 people had had to be resettled as their villages were to be flooded. In addition to homes and farms, 17 churches and 18 cemeteries (involving over 2,000 bodies) had to be relocated.

1963 – John F. Kennedy made a speech in West Berlin expressing solidarity with the West Germans there. His famous phrase Ich bin ein Berliner is known across the world and whilst not meant literally as obviously he was American it meant he wanted those in the western section of the city to know that he was of a similar mind and against the Russian governed eastern section. The Berlin Wall was begun in 1961 and, after much political change, was eventually demolished in 1989; reunification of West and East Germany took place in October 1990.

1975 – Sonny & Cher’s divorce became final. Although they seemed to have been around for a long time it might surprise you to know that their chart successes as a duo were concentrated into just a couple of years: 3 singles in 1965, 5 in 1966, 1 in 1967, 1 in 1972. There were only two chart albums: 1 in 1965 & 1 in 1966.

1984George Horace Gallup was born. He was the inventor of what is called the Gallup Poll which is a statistical method of doing a survey which can then be used to project what public opinion may be on a certain subject. I can remember many years ago that each time a survey was mentioned in a news broadcast on some national issue it was quoted as the result of a Gallup Poll. It seemed that the media endorsed the results almost as proof! I never knew it was named after an actual bloke at the time.

1986 – Richard Branson left New York on his powerboat Virgin Atlantic Challenger to try and break the record for the fastest crossing of the Atlantic Ocean. The holder of the title is said to have The Blue Riband. He did it by arriving 2 hours faster than the previous record holder the SS United States. However he cannot claim the Blue Riband officially because that award is for vessels in service (his was not) and they are not allowed to stop for fuel (which his team did). Nevertheless it was the fastest time to cross from America to England.

2000The international Human Genome Project and a U.S. company, Celera Genomics announced the completion of a working draft of the human genetic blueprint (the Book of Life).

Yes, I have some bananas

Hi all, it’s the guest blogger again today. Enjoy!


Just before getting into this week’s topic I thought I’d ask if, after last week’s post, any of you decided to do some three-word daily diary stuff. Here’s mine for the last few days:


Thu 31.1.13 Hospital blood test

Fri 1.2.13 Virus check done

Sat 2.2.13 Weekly shop done

Sun 3.2.13 Projector malfunction again

Mon 4.2.13 Projector fault found

Tue 5.2.13 Sun after snow


(A note from lazylauramaisey, mine for today is “loving new piano!”)


Ok so on to this week’s subject.



I wonder if you know the derivation of the word BANANA? Etymologies differ and one suggests it is from a West African language spoken in Senegal & the Gambia and introduced by the Spanish & Portuguese who it’s believed first discovered the word; the other suggests an Arabic root from their word banan meaning finger. Both sound feasible; take your pick I suppose.

Banana facts: they are a good source of vitamin B6 (25% of our RDA), vitamin C (about 15% RDA for a non-smoker) & potassium (25% RDA). The fruit releases into the body dopanine and serotonin which are good for the brain. Bananas are picked green and start to ripen straight away. What actually happens to turn them from green to the yellow we’re familiar with when we eat them? After they are picked, the hormones in the fruit convert certain amino acids into ethylene gas. This gas then causes the production of enzymes that change the colour and also the texture and flavour of the banana. The reason they can arrive here still green is because they are carried in a temperature controlled environment with a certain amount of ethylene in it so that the ripening process is slowed down.


Check out the label here on the bananas I bought this week at my local supermarket.



I wonder if you ever look at the labels on the food you buy. You may check a sell by date, best before date etc. How many of us look at the ingredients? Certainly those with allergies have no choice but anyone else is probably just rushing round as quickly as possible to get out of the supermarket or wherever the goods are on sale. I was intrigued last week to note the label on my bananas said they were a product of Ecuador; this week, as you can see in my picture, it was Cameroun. Ecuador apparently produces one third of all the bananas grown for export “in the world”. In 2004 there were 130 countries producing bananas; bear in mind the UN has 192 countries and the world has 195/6 depending on who is defining which land areas actually count as countries. That means basically two thirds of all the countries in the world produce bananas.

It got me thinking about the product. Where are the world’s bananas grown? How much? Here is a table showing production levels of the top 10 in the year 2011. However these figures are for both the main types of banana produced: plantains & dessert. Plantains are for cooking; dessert are the sweeter, and for eating raw out of the skin. You can see that Ecuador, supplier of last week’s bananas, is the 5th largest producer; Cameroon is 9th.


# 1 India: 29,700,000 metric tonnes

# 2 Uganda: 11,100,000 metric tonnes

# 3 China: 10,700,000 metric tonnes

# 4 Philippines: 9,200,000 metric tonnes

# 5 Ecuador: 8,000,000 metric tonnes

# 6 Brazil: 7,300,000 metric tonnes

# 7 Indonesia: 6,100,000 metric tonnes

# 8 Colombia: 5,100,000 metric tonnes

# 9 Cameroon: 850,000 metric tonnes

# 10 Tanzania: 3,900,000 metric tonnes


In terms of exports the order is 1.Ecuador 2.Costa Rica 3.Colombia 4.Philippines 5.Guatemala

However as we go about our weekly shopping do we think about how the supermarkets are able to bring us this fruit at such a cheap price. My bunch of 5 bananas weighed almost spot on 1kg so about 200g each; they cost me £0.79 ($1.25). They’re very good value. But how is this possible?

Think about this – the journey time by sea, on one of the largest shipping lines in the world, is about 28/29 days from the port of Douala (Cameroon) to Felixstowe (UK). Bananas require a temperature-controlled container for transport to keep them fresh (13.5-15⁰C). They then have to have an artificial ripening process, as they’re shipped very green, followed by delivery across the UK to warehouses and stores that need the supplies. There are a lot of links in the chain from producer to consumer.


Today’s world production of bananas is controlled by 4 companies nicknamed “The Wild Bunch”: Chiquita, Dole, Del Monte, Noboa


On the website there is a headline “UK Supermarket blamed” & “Documentary exposes exploitation of banana workers in Cameroon”. You can read about a Scottish film maker, Jan Nimmo who got access to some of the plantations in Cameroon. She reported on the adverse conditions that employees are having to work in. Perhaps this is why my bananas are cheap. The difficulty is in knowing whether it is the supermarkets that drive down the price they’re willing to pay to their suppliers or whether it is unscrupulous bosses at the supply end who force workers to accept low wages to maximise their own profits; or maybe it’s a bit of both.

Perhaps next time I go I’ll look for the ones with the Fairtrade stickers on. I read that Sainsbury’s switched to getting their bananas from only Fairtrade producers over 5 years ago. The benefits to the local communities where these agreements are in place really do make a difference and in some cases mean that producers no longer have to take risks crossing borders to get better prices for their goods. Fairtrade purchases by the supermarket, in the Windward Islands (Dominica, St Lucia, Saint Vincent & The Grenadines, Grenada), have resulted in local communities being able to buy computers for schools, fund scholarships, sponsor a school bus and bus shelters as well as enabling local farmers to invest back into their own businesses. It is reckoned that about 10 million Fairtrade bananas, from the Windward Islands and South America were consumed at the London Olympics.


Anyone fancy some Banana Trivia?

Here we go then:


1- Canadians eat approximately 3 billion bananas a year.

2- Bananas do not grow on trees. They grow on the largest grass in the world.

3- 90% of the world’s bananas are NOT grown for export

4. 99% of bananas grown for export are of the Cavendish variety.

5. Four million 40lb boxes of bananas are imported into North America every year.

6. In 1998, the entire banana crop of Honduras was wiped out by Hurricane Mitch.

7. Bananas are the fourth most important staple food crop in the world.

8. Bananas were first imported to the UK in 1878 from the Canary Islands by Fyffe, Hudson & Co


What about bananas in songs?


If you fancy watching this check it out. It’s the video for the song Juanita Banana. If you don’t think you can make it through the whole 2.5 minutes just go to the point where the lady starts wailing. It’s worth it just for that bit!



The song tells the story of a Mexican banana farmer’s daughter who has operatic ambitions and with a chorus which is an adaptation of Caro Nome from Giuseppe Verdi’s opera Rigoletto. Just the sort of subject for a song you’d think of writing – right?


You’ve got to have a watch of this one as it gives you the deep meaning lyrics. It’s the Banana Boat Song. I’m sure you’ll recognise it as soon as you hear the opening lines:



You think this is a joke song? Just wait till you see who’s covered it: Shirley Bassey, Harry Belafonte, a group called A Bunch Of Coconuts & Stan Freberg. It’s even been used in the film Beetlejuice.(Check out that version on Youtube if you’re interested.)

Also remember that 1967 album by the Velvet Underground & Nico with this cover:



And finally – how about banana art? Check this one out:


Then ask yourself – how long will this stuff last once the skin starts to age. It’s clever but it’s not going to last. I guess that’s why he’s got the pictures.


And all that from a tiny oval sticker on my bunch of bananas. Food for thought anyway!