Christmas is coming


Even in darkest Africa anyone with half an eye on the online newspapers can sense that Christmas is about to appear over the horizon. I asked Margaret, who has been translating at the widows' groups for me, if people ate a special Christmas day meal in Uganda. 'Oh yes' she said. 'They buy things they don't get to eat the rest of the year - rice, potatoes, maybe some meat.' Christmas as we have come to know it has thankfully not arrived yet in Kiwangala market.

In the midst of the mid-recession  gloom one news article did catch my eye. A piece of research, reportedly, has found that many children believe themselves materially deprived if they don't have a computer, a wide screen television or a family car. My first reaction was that they must have had to search around to find children that didn't have a computer, a wide screen television or a family car. My next was to remember the unrelenting child-pressure of years now past for the latest pair of trainers or whatever else was in fashion.

I thought also of the football-shirts which sell (or sold) at premium prices only to be updated for each new season. Well, those shirts that so many mothers trailed the pre-Christmas shops for are now being recycled in Africa where they sell at the local market for anything up to £2. Joseph, one of the teachers at Sure House school wears a Newcastle United top, complete with Scottish and Newcastle Brewery's famous sponsorship on the front. I had to explain to him what Newcastle Brown Ale was.

There is a young lad whose mother also teaches at the school that I played football with the other lunchtime. His ball is beginning to fall apart, made as it is from plastic sandwich bags stuffed into a shape something larger than a cricket ball and tied together with banana string. Big Derek isn't very big. He is six and would only be three feet six in his stocking soles if he had any. He has no shoes either. From the state of his school uniform, which has a tear across the back, one might think he is materially deprived. But he is fed every day, has a house to sleep in and has a permanent grin on his face from ear to ear. A computer, wide-screen television or a family car wouldn't be much use to Derek (or his mother). But this Christmas he would really appreciate a new ball.