The Epley Manoeuvre

This has been a fairly unpleasant week as I woke up Monday morning with a nasty bout of vertigo. For you lucky people who have never suffered from it, the slightest movement of the head seems to cause the whole room to dip and spin horribly until the head is returned to its resting position, and if you try to fight against it and move anyway (for example to get out of bed to get to a toilet) the sensation causes you to vomit. I suppose it is like sea-sickness. Apparently it is caused by little calcium carbonate crystals in the ear breaking loose and floating off to the wrong place and thereby giving your brain the wrong spatial and positional messages.

This is the fourth time now, in four years, that I have woken up feeling like this. Only this time it was different in that it was still there, although in a milder form, the next morning. & the next, and the next. So I have spent this morning on the internet. I vaguely knew that there is some technique you can be taught to manipulate the head in such a way as to get the crystals back into the right place, but my UK doctor had refused to show me how last year as he would have had to induce a vertigo attack in order to do so. I didn’t fancy trying to explain it all to a doctor here, having no idea how to translate Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (the proper name) into French, so decided to find out how on the internet.

& there they were on YouTube, lots of nice little videos of people demonstrating the Epley Manoeuvre. So I shut my office door, cleared off a table, borrowed a towel from the bathroom to support my neck, got onto the table and started turning my head and body as instructed. I’ve done it once so far and already feel a little better, and will be so relieved when I perfect the technique (apparently it takes a little practice to get really good at it) as I was so worried about waking up with this one day at the wrong time and place (eg with a flight to catch).

Thank goodness for the internet. I’ve also used it this morning to book a flight and pay a tax bill as well as my daily check on the world news. What did expats like myself used to do without it?

Yet more about food

This time last year I was so overwhelmed by mangoes that I was prompted to investigate how to make mango jam. This year, however there have not been nearly so many. Now I know why.

This was taken at nearly 19:00h when the light had started to fade, hence the graininess of the photo, but in fact several of these rose-ringed parakeets now seem to spend most of their day in my mango tree. They squawk extremely loudly, they drop bits of mango all over the ground, and they don't leave enough for me - but I'm not complaining. It is a pleasure to see them there!

It does mean though that I have to walk around the edge of my courtyard, avoiding the area under the mango tree, as currently around four partially eaten mangos crash down onto the ground every day.

I have just discovered a new place to go in Dakar. An urban park, visited by Senegalese mostly for its zoo, but also containing a lake and a large area of swampy woodland all around the edge of the lake. It is full of pelicans, cormorants, herons and kingfishers, and I also saw hornbills and vultures, and a large monitor lizard running through the undergrowth and into the water. I have been there a couple of times now, and this weekend I decided to explore the area near it. The map showed a beach nearby with a picture of a fishing boat, and sure enough when I eventually found a little alleyway heading down to the beach, I started to smell fish.

Several fishing boats had just come in, and the catch was being distributed to the traders at the little fish market there. Suddenly a group of boys rushed in my direction with something large carried above their heads. It was a swordfish! I moved out of their way and found a Senegalese lady grabbing my hand and pulling me along behind them. She was, she told me, Madame Ndiaye (aka Mama Seck), and although she spoke only Wolof it was clear that she was a fish seller and she had identified me as a likely customer.

We followed the fish down another alleyway, where it was slapped onto a big wooden log. A man waiting there cut off the fins, scraped away all the scales with a sickle, gutted and beheaded it. He shook his head when he saw I had taken my camera out, so I smiled and put it back in my bag - but fortunately by then had already sneaked one quick shot.

I had absolutely no idea how much fresh swordfish would cost, so I offered around £5, and he cut off an enormous chunk of fish. Madame Ndiaye took it over to what must have been her stall, and chopped it into pieces for me. So I now have seven swordfish steaks to work out how to cook!

More about food

After my trip to Cameroon I had to go to the UK for a week, for a conference. We were in the south coast town of Hythe, where I had never been before – a pretty little place with a historic canal (known as the Royal Military Canal, built at the start of the nineteenth century as a defence against Napoleon) and a very windy seafront. We had blue skies and sunshine for the whole week, and I thought it must have given a very good impression of England to my international colleagues.

Not that any of them said anything. Perhaps I am too polite – or just too cowardly – but I never really criticise the countries I am visiting to my hosts, in fact I usually go out of my way to find something good to say. For example I can’t honestly say that I really like the food much in West Africa. Some of it is nice, but overall the impression is of endless meals of rice served with gristly bits of meat and bone, with any flavour obliterated by too much chilli, pepper or salt. But I would never say that if asked. I might go as far as to admit that they don’t eat enough vegetables for my liking – but I would either find some aspect I like or I would be non-committal rather than criticising it.

However observing my African colleagues in the hotel dining room, and at a very nice fish restaurant, there was no such restraint. They turned their noses up, they laughed in disbelief that we could eat ‘such stuff’, they smothered everything with salt, or they just left it uneaten and asked if there was any way they could have some chips, or some ice cream. “You mean the Queen of England eats this?” one of them asked me, about a very nice salmon fishcake.

I was amused though also annoyed, and embarrassed for the poor restaurant staff. Then I wondered whether it is better to tell the truth as they do – perhaps I am just being patronising by always trying to avoid criticising anything from their culture?

Talking of food, I added on a day to the week there so as to have time for some shopping, and the most important part was the trip to Sainsburys. I had heard much about the terrible price rises so was curious to see whether they matched those here in Senegal. In fact I saw no evidence of them at all. Sainsburys Basics pasta was still 19p a packet, the same price as it was when I left the country 18 months ago, whilst here the same size packet has risen from 35p to nearly 90p during that period. I tried to avoid the dairy products as I knew I couldn’t transport them, which is too frustrating when the prices in Senegal are enough to make you cry. £1.78 for a litre of milk!

Still, I was able to fit a couple of packets of pasta in my case, and somehow I also successfully carried back a whole punnet of nectarines and another of wonderfully tasty organic cherry tomatoes. Needless to say, I didn’t share any of it with my African colleagues on my return!