Featured Post

"Smarter Aid, not more Aid!"

The Northumbrian Abroad

Well, here we are! I succumbed.  Rather than blogging on other people's sites, I have decided to have my own.  Why?  Well like most of us, I think I have something to say and some folks out there may be interested.  I quite often find especially with larger media, that they tend to want things expressed in their own way, imposing a kind of censorship.  Well this is the pure unadultered me!  As a person who comes from a distinct part of the world, betwixt the warring English and Scots, I think we have our special characteristics.  Those stand us in good stead when plodding around the world.  So I like to compare and contrast situations at home or in the past but within living memory, with those encountered in the developing world.  My blogs delve in to some intricate details.
My "Alnwickdotes" are of course anecdotes, usually lighter stories of things that have happened over the years.  Please go to the link below for a quick-list. Most still have a development connection.  Over time, I will write up more of them, as well as blog on any subject in my areas of interest trending on social media.  I explain the term Alnwickdote in No 1 in the series. One clue is Alnwick may be the "most mispronounced place-name in the UK".

My life journey briefly has taken me far in to the distance from Northumberland (and back)  to Leicester; Kingston-upon-Thames, Exeter, Dorchester, Saint Helena Island, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Malawi, Rwanda and Cambodia plus many stops on the way. You can access my latest CV here.

I must warn you, and maybe apologize in advance? I do tend to rant; rave, groan and moan, perhaps a North-Eastern attribute, but then who would not want to associate with the High Level Ranters?  (For the uninitiated, this great band was called after one of the 5 Bridges now 7 that grace the River Tyne in Newcastle, made famous by the Nice.) Their equally talented and humorous peers, the band Lindisfarne, are more famous - lads I met in Kingston before they were rich and famous! (The Fog on the Thames was all wors!).

Actually, as my blogs show, there is not so much difference between life in cities like Newcastle and Phnom Penh, despite the passage of time and distance.  Listen to my chum Chris Minko and his great Cambodian girl singers in Sin City. Just Like Eric Burdon and the Animals "We gotta get out of this place"?



The background picture is of Longhoughton Quarry Pond.  I see it every day when I crank up the computer!  When we grew up, the pond was small but a constant source of fascination with the fishes, frogs, and newts. Apart from a few fishermen, few people seem to go to enjoy its beauty*.  Maybe that is because one thing has not changed.  There may be still explosive charges to extract the stone.  Many years later when in Malawi, Africa, I recalled instantly those days.  Young Pioneers.......

* PS - Well that was until Vera visited! (A TV detective show set in and around #northumberland
 




June 2015 - update: Vera is back in Craster and at our childhood playground haunt of the Rumbling Kern. By chance we were at the Jolly Fisherman same time but missed the new famous Craster Kipper Beer kipper - thanks Cheers! and @alnwickgazette

One follower of my Twitter Account @LowrieJohn asked me about my banner picture.  It was till April 2017 Dunstanburgh Castle just North of Craster, my photo taken of course from the best vantage point and all-weather retreat of the Jolly Fisherman.  Here's the clearer close-up promised:








Where are we in the world?

Thanks to Tim Peake and the International Space Station we can show you - next to Bonnie Scotland (South of) but a distinctive different if related mob... to use the cute Australian Aboriginal word for kin






 And finally for the record:


Please note that I subscribe to freedom of information over the internet subject to reasonable conditions such as those set by Creative Commons.  I would appreciate it if you would act and honour such undertakings similarly, for knowledge to spread as widely as possible and to those who have most difficulty in accessing it.




A Guide to my Alnwickdotes (Anecdotes)

About Me

The inaugural AGM of the new local NGO for indigenous people in Mondulkiri, Cambodia. I am a bit too centre-stage for my liking, but they like it!

I am of course a long-time worker in international community development and human rights, but have come a long way from my Northumbrian origins.

Your best is not good enough!




Sometimes, your best is simply not good enough, no matter how hard you try.  Nowhere is that more apparent than in the world of aid and development. Old chum Nate Rabe discovered that. Thankfully he seems to be doing fine in his post-Aid life. So let this be a warning, especially to those bright young people, earnestly pursuing international development studies, and to those with the wanderlust to travel overseas to discover, and to put the world to rights.

Elections Fervour, Fear Cambodia v UK




Voters who do not turn out at elections often reason “It won’t make any difference, which party to vote for or not at all*”. This is not the case in Cambodia where the ruling party’s strategy makes it clear where benefits will go to, or be forfeited by the way a vote is cast. This picture shows the quality of a publicly-funded road
A key test of a healthy democracy? Read on.

Part Two  (14 June 2017]

Predicting elections is for the foolhardy as Opinion Pollsters are learning.  I can’t claim to be any better.  Like most people, I did not foresee the UK election shock result with the governing Conservative Party losing its majority. Nor did most of us foresee the 2013 Cambodian election where the Opposition CNRP Party almost wrestled power.

Election fever, fear and fervour!


Fascinating to be able to watch at close-hand two elections – one in Cambodia and the other in the UK. Now we know that they are very different, so you can't make true comparisons, but they do give rise to interesting and valid observations on electoral processes.

One major distinction is clear. For the ruling party in one country the election was wanted and called, whereas for the other, it is not welcome, at least while there's any risk of losing.

It's a strange world.

Observations to go with the great breast-milk debate

Cambodian Mother and Child from Bunong ethnic minority in Mondulkiri
UNICEF and Child-Care experts united to persuade Cambodian authorities to outlaw poor Cambodian mothers from selling their breastmilk.  The issue has gone global and viral.  See for example this BBC report. Here is my tweet, not well-received by the experts.

Count your blessings!



Cambodian Children singing about Hurricane Katrina in Kampong Chhnang 2009 at a "Disaster Preparedness" Event

Heather George was as adept with her children as she was with her old piano at producing tuneful renditions for morning assemblies at Country School, Saint Helena. I always remember one song and it came to mind thanks to Santil Phin in Cambodia. Count your blessings, one by one. Please tune in to it.

Santil Phin is right.

Cambodia coffee: grounds for optimism?




June 2017 - An update

Three months away from Takhmau and “By Golly” what a lot has gone on.

The “Coffee Culture” is full of beans. I see three more have opened, although “Heart” has suffered cardiac arrest. Its competitor across the road has bounced back, as a  Sports Bar, nice collection of football shirts including Leicester City!

Inspirations, lasting impressions



The humble Salmon - what a remarkable journey it makes with sheer dogged determination to return to where it was hatched, to spawn and die. 
Photographer Mike Smith similarly persisted. It took two years to capture this Northumbrian image at Hexham Bridge.




Very often people ask me “What keeps you going?”  There is no doubt that work in the “Aid and Development” industry is a struggle and frustrating. Just ask Nate!