Dreams of escape to Lanzarote

Sunshine virtually guaranteed all year round

The latest wave of Covid-19 has put a bit of a damper on thoughts of flying abroad for that dream holiday, but the Canary Islands is almost unique in being an all-year-round destination and good weather all but guaranteed.

A favourite is Lanzarote. It  is the Canary archipelago’s south-easternmost island. Although it covers no more than 800 square kilometres, it offers strikingly diverse landscapes. The legacy of the volcanic eruptions that took place in the 18th and 19th centuries is a spectacular scene of singular form and beauty. Next to unexpected landscapes made up of volcanic caves, lakes of lava and craters, lie beaches of golden sand and transparent waters.

What is more, the spectacular natural heritage has been jealously guarded by the people of Lanzarote; and not in vain, since the island was declared a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in 1993. Furthermore, in 2015, it became the first destination in the world to receive Biosphere Responsible Tourismcertification.

In Lanzarote you will find everything from the liveliest tourist towns, with their top  hotel facilitiesand recreational areas, to unparalleled landscapes, spots showing no trace of human presence, and solitary islets for the enjoyment of silence.

The Parque Nacional de Timanfaya, (Timanfaya National Park), a lovely succession of volcanic landscapes, is one of the island’s greatest tourist attractions, together with the Art, Culture and Tourism Centres created by the local artist César Manrique. The original cultivation systems of the farmers of Lanzarote, who learned how to overcome the island’s sterility and encourage the lava to exuberance, are another focus of attraction to visitors.

The benign climate, with its average annual temperature of 22º C, is also worthy of mention, since it makes Lanzarote the perfect destination for the practice of all kinds of outdoor sports.

New Sutton restaurant to open doors

Thai venue Giggling Squid announces opening date in Mere Green

Sutton Coldfield’s newest restaurant will open its doors next month, the owners have confirmed.

The new Thai tapas-style restaurant, Giggling Squid, will take over from former Italian venue, Gustos, in Mulberry Walk, Mere Green.

The chain, which began in the basement of a fishmerman’s cottage in Brighton in 2002, has confirmed it will open in late July.

Founded by Pranee and Andrew Laurillard, Giggling Squid now operates 38 venues across the UK.

A spokesperson for the chain said Giggling Squid has established a strong reputation for bold Thai cuisine, complemented by a stylish and relaxed setting. The varied menu comprises a competitively priced lunch menu and a more extensive evening offer, as well as separate children and vegan menus.

She added that their outlets are a true labour of love, and taking inspiration from Thai traditions and legends, Giggling Squid’s menu features vibrant, fresh and flavoursome dishes celebrating the abundance of exciting and exotic ingredients found across Thailand, all cooked by expert Thai chefs. 

Co-founder, Andy said: “Thai mealtimes are energetic, informal, adventurous and where food is celebrated. It’s relaxed and there’s no standing on ceremony. We simply want people to have a great time over something tasty! Every Giggling Squid has its own personal touch to it, and this restaurant is no different; it’s a beautifully designed space that we hope will bring a lot of pleasure to our guests. We can’t wait to welcome everyone.”

The spokesperson added: “Catering to the community during the new normal, Giggling Squid guests will still receive the same great food, service and atmosphere the restaurant chain is known and loved for, but with even more stringent health and safety policies in place, making it the safest place possible for all guests and staff.”

Giggling Squid is expected to open Monday-Thursday 12pm – 10pm, Friday-Saturday 12pm – 10.30pm, Sunday 12pm – 9.30pm.

A wide takeaway menu will also be available for click & collect or telephone orders as well as delivery.

Store wars takes a new twist

Discount grocer Lidl has confirmed that around 40 jobs, both full and part-time, will be created at its new Sutton Coldfield store when it finally opens.

A company spokesman has confirmed that the new store in Mere Green will be open ‘within weeks’ after suffering delays and sparking anger over increased traffic and pavement access.

Workers are busy working on the inside of the store, with completion set to be completed next month.

A Lidl spokesman said: “We can confirm that construction of our new Lidl store in Mere Green, Sutton Coldfield, is well underway and is expected to open later this summer.

“Once opened, the store will create around 40 full and part time jobs for the local area and we look forward to delivering our fresh, quality and affordable produce to the local community.”

It comes as discount rival Aldi have revealed plans and images of how a new store in Sutton town centre will look.

If plans are approved, the German giant says it wants to build the £5 million new store at the eyesore Brassington Avenue site, which has remained derelict for years.

The firm has released a computer generated image (right), of how the new store will look and says it will increase staff numbers to around 45 when it takes over from the current store on The Parade in the town centre.

That’s not all in the discount stores battle. In a move which is sure to create even more anger and controversy over increased traffic, Aldi look poised to transform the former Waitrose store on Belwell Lane in Mere Green.

Caravans invade Sutton Park

Visitors shocked as travellers set up camp

Revellers looking to enjoy the early summer sunshine in Sutton Park were left puzzled when they arrived to see around a dozen traveller caravans parked near the Town Gate.

The travellers are thought to have arrived at the 2,400 acre beauty spot on Tuesday night (June 8) and appear to have gained access to the green space next to the children’s playground and rangers’ hut through a broken fence.

Rows of vehicles, thought to belong to the travellers were parked alongside the fence.

Claire McFarland, from Mere Green, was visiting with her two children. She said she was shocked to see the travellers.

Whether they broke or removed the fence is unclear.

“It’s not a pretty sight,” she said. “But the kids were fascinated by the caravans.”

Park ranger Matthew Barker posting on Facebook said: “I’ve spoken with the police and reminded them that accessing SSSI land without consent is potentially a criminal offence rather than the usual civil matter within normal parks.”

A spokesperson for Birmingham City Council said: “The council is committed to actively protecting its land and will take steps to recover this land where illegal encampments encroach upon it.”

It is not know whether they are the same group of travellers who were recently camped on the field at Coleshill Nurseries Sports Ground.

That site is near the tip at Norris Way and near the Porsche garage

Electric MG bucks the trend

MG5 Exclusive

By Bill McCarthy

NO-ONE can accuse MG of lacking ambition. Years after the brand’s disappearance and then return to British roads, it has moved on in leaps and bounds.

After a faltering start, the line-up is still limited but imaginative. This latest model, the all-electric MG5, targets the fleet market, which bucks the current trend for SUV/crossover vehicles, instead offering a repmobile-style estate car.

It is also an affordable electric option for larger families, with its impressive range, practicality and stowage space. It’s range would not be suitable for company drivers covering hundreds of miles a day, rather the local multi-drop urban work or commuting to and from an office or to visit clients, where the range 214 miles, would be more than adequate.

This alleviates one of the big problems with electric cars – range anxiety. The question of whether you can reach your destination, and if you can’t are there charging points available? Around 200 miles seemed easily achievable while living with the car.

There’s little to show the car is an electric vehicle apart from some discrete badging, the green strip on the number plate and the lack of tailpipes.

It offers smart styling, sitting low off the ground to attain better stability, ultra-low running costs, particularly with Benefit in Kind taxation for business users, just one per cent for 2021/2022 and a hugely attractive price. It starts from £24,495 (after the Government plug-in car grant), not forgetting the seven year warranty.

The vehicle is powered by a 115kW electric motor and delivers the instant, blistering acceleration associated with electric cars. Equivalent to 156PS, it can hit 60mph in 7.7 seconds.  It is a comfortable place to be and handles pretty much as well as any petrol or diesel estate and accommodates five people with relative ease.

The 52.5kWh Lithium-Ion battery pack can be charged from zero to 80 per cent in just 50 minutes using a rapid charger. A full charge at home using Type 2 fast charging can be attained in around eight and a half hours.

There’s little to show the car is an electric vehicle apart from some discrete badging, the green strip on the number plate and the lack of tailpipes.

It has a low slung profile and while it may not be the most exciting styling, the iconic MG badge on the black grille still attracts plenty of interest. The grille badge in fact discretely conceals the charging, point, swinging open to allow the car to be plugged in.

The interior feels like a much more expensive car, with a comprehensive list of standard equipment. It also has a more modern feel, with the usual gear selector replaced with a rotary knob and the instruments laid out in a clear, concise and logical manner.

There is plenty of head and legroom, even for rear seat passengers, while the front seats, on this Exclusive model are leather-style, heated and fully adjustable

 To hammer home the point of the car’s value for money, even the ‘entry level’ Excite features electric windows all-round, air conditioning, regenerative braking, cruise control with speed limiter, an auto-hold electric parking brake, rain-sensing wipers and push-button starter.

This is together with 16-inch, alloys, remote entry with push-button start, air conditioning, four electric windows, electrically adjustable mirrors, cruise control, rear parking sensors and follow- me-home headlights. This Exclusive model adds rear camera, sat nav, silver roof rails, electrically adjustable folding heated mirrors, an automatically dimming mirror and satellite navigation.

The centrepiece on both is an eight-inch colour touchscreen and seven-inch TFT display. The touch screen controls navigation, infotainment through the six speaker system and DAB radio, and connectivity for smartphones.

In addition there are four USB ports, The TFT display gives a raft of driver information, particularly on the charging and range of the car.

The large boot area is accessed through a wide tailgate opening and offers from 464 litres of space up a spacious 1,456 litres, depending on the configuration of the folding rear seats.

It’s also packed with active and passive safety systems, with front, side and curtain airbags, electronic brake assist, ABS with EBD, twin ISOFIX points in the rear and hill start assistance.


MG 5 Exclusive

Price: £27,540

Mechanical: 156PS,115kw electric motor driving front wheels via auto via transmission

Max Speed: 115mph

0-62mph: 7.7 seconds

Combined MPG: Range 214 miles (WLTP)

Insurance Group: 19

C02 emissions: 0g/km

Warranty: 7yrs/80,000 miles

Sutton residents in cybercrime alert

Photo by Mikhail Nilov on Pexels.com

Phishing remains the most successful attack vector for cyber criminals targeting individuals and businesses

Cyber criminals love phishing and Sutton residents have been warned to be alert over online crime.

Unfortunately, this is not a harmless riverbank pursuit. When criminals go phishing, you are the fish and the bait is usually contained in a scam email or text message.

The criminal’s goal is to convince you to click on the links within their scam email or text message, or to give away sensitive information (such as bank details). These messages may look like the

real thing but are malicious. Once clicked, you may be sent to a dodgy website which could download viruses onto your computer, or steal your passwords.

As of 30 April 2021, over 5.8 million emails were reported to the Suspicious Email Reporting Service (SERS). The tool, which was launched by the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) and the City of London Police last April, allows the public to forward suspicious emails to an automated system that scans it for malicious links. Since its launch, over 43,000 scams and 84,000 malicious websites have been removed.

What are the most common phishing scams?

The most commonly spoofed organisation reported in phishing emails was TV Licensing, with victims of these emails reporting losses totalling £5.3m. The majority of losses occurred as a result of victims following malicious links in the emails and inputting their personal information into what they thought was the legitimate

TV Licensing website. Shortly after, they would receive a call from criminals impersonating bank staff who was able to convince them that their bank accounts were compromised and persuaded them to transfer all of their money to a new ‘safe’ account. Some of the other most commonly impersonated organisations included HMRC and DVLA. We also received more than 40,000 suspicious email reports relating to COVID-19.

How you can protect yourself from phishing messages.

Fake emails and text messages can sometimes be difficult to spot and criminals are constantly getting better at finding ways to make them seem more authentic. Email address spoofing, for example, is just one of the tactics criminals will use to try and make their fake emails look real. Here are some tips you should follow to protect yourself, and others, from scam emails and text messages:

1: Be cautious of messages asking for your personal information. Official organisations, such as your bank, should never ask you for personal or financial information via email or text message. If you receive a message and you want to check that it’s legitimate, you can call the organisation directly using a known number, such as the one on a bank statement or utility bill.

2: Report suspicious emails. If you receive an email you’re not quite sure about, you should report it to the Suspicious Email Reporting Service (SERS) by forwarding the email to: report@phishing.gov.uk. Your reports will help government and law enforcement agencies to remove malicious emails and websites.

3: Report suspicious text messages. If you receive a suspicious text message, you can report it by forwarding the message to 7726. It’s free of charge and enables your mobile network provider to investigate the origin of the text and take action, if found to be malicious.

4: Report fraud. If you’ve lost money or provided personal information as a result of a phishing scam, notify your bank immediately and report it to Action Fraud.

For more information on how to protect yourself from fraud and cyber crime, please visit: actionfraud.police.uk/cybercrime

Final flourish for Exige and Elise

Iconic Lotus models get special treatment

By Bill McCarthy

Iconic is often used to describe cars, but few in reality deserve that status. Lotus most certainly does. Small in production numbers, but virtually universally recognisable, they are true drivers’ cars.

The Norfolk-based manufacturer is saying farewell to two models with limited editions of the Exige and Elise, so you can add rarity value to iconic in this case.

Both models have been around for more than 20 years and are bowing out with a bang.

Iconic? Yes, and thrilling because both offer a stripped down, raw form of driving which enthusiasts love, even if you need to be a contortionist to slide yourself into the seats.

Push it towards the red line and the roar becomes more pronounced, while the 420Nm of torque means the car pulls beautifully in all gears

Once inside having navigated the large step down into the cockpit, you are seated low to the ground, go-kart style. But there is plenty of legroom and the new flat-bottomed steering wheel also help with ingress/egress, while the seats are surprisingly comfortable.

Creature comforts are few and far between in pursuit of weight saving. Spartan, would be a kind way to describe it with aluminium dominant for dash, sills and exposed gear linkage and central tunnel. Soft touch finish is not for these models, with hard plastics prevalent, although there is some suede finish.

The Exige Sport 390 Final Edition is a real supercar, offering blistering performance and a road presence that is hard to match and, as Lotus would say, has  become the genre-defining definition of a race car for the road.

The Elise Sport 240 Final Edition is no less head turning than its sibling and says farewell after 25 years of gracing roads worldwide.

So what are the main differences? Both have stunning curvaceous styling and a choice of eye-catching, some garish, colour options, new exterior decals, lare air scoops, new wheel finishes and trim, but the Exige has a more raw, track-racing look, with its roof scoop and distinctive rear spoiler

Both are mid-engine and take advantage of their low-weight aluminium construction to offer stunning performance.

I perhaps got it the wrong way round driving the Exige first. Stripped down motoring it is with a 3.5 litre V6 supercharged engine mated with a slick shifting six speed box.

Muscle car might be a better description of this beast, with no power assisted steering and stiff clutch giving shoulders and left leg a workout before you’ve even got going.

Fire it up and it burbles calmly until you press the throttle and the roar and response is instantaneous. Acceleration through the 397bhp power unit is neck-wrenching, although care had to be taken on a wet road drive. Having said that, on long straight stretches, the car could be put through its paces. 

The lack of power steering then really comes into its own as the driver gets superb feedback, feeling every inch of the road, while grip from the combination of 17 and 18-inch wheels front and rear, means it goes exactly where you point and at blistering pace. 

Push it towards the red line and the roar becomes more pronounced, while the 420Nm of torque means the car pulls beautifully in all gears.

 It can hit 60mph in around 3.5 seconds and on to a top speed of over 170mph. The kind of car built as much for the track as for the road.

The Elise 240, in comparison felt almost pedestrian. That’s if you can call hitting 60mph in just over four seconds pedestrian.

Powered by a supercharged and charge-cooled 1.8-litre, four-cylinder mid-mounted engine, it delivers 240bhp and 244Nm of torque.

 Again response is instantaneous as you rip through the gears while the car clings limpet-like to the tarmac. It almost feels like power steering after the fat tyres of the Exige, 16 and 17-inch respectively here, but handling and steering feedback are superb.

For both cars, the excellent aerodynamics and spoilers produce huge downforce to keep both glued to the road, so wet weather could only slightly detract with what was a thrilling drive in both.

For their final farewell, both have come with what Lotus describes as the most extensive list of interior and exterior features, ever, which to be honest, aren’t that many, but that won’t matter for enthusiasts.

The biggest upgrade is the new TFT digital dashboard with the choice of two screens, one with a conventional set of dials and the other a race car-style with digital speed read-out and an engine speed bar and all with a Final Edition build plaque, plus new seat trim and stitch patterns.

Colours are split into two; Select, which includes Daytona Blue, Fire Red, Metallic Orange and Motorsport Black; and Heritage, which includes Racing Green, Nightfall Blue, Essex Blue and Calypso Red. 

Five new variants of the two cars are the Elise Sport 240, Elise Cup 250, Exige Sport 390, Exige Sport 420 and Exige Cup 430. Lotus is anticipating high demand from global markets as customers rush to buy a slice of history. Prices range from £45,500 for the Elise to £100,600 for the range topping Exige.  

Lotus owners, Chinese firm Geely are now joining the electric party with the 1,000bhp Evija hypercar set to hit the roads, while the new petrol engined Emira also on the way.


MORE than 5.3 million vaccine doses have been delivered in the West Midlands, with 10 million people now vaccinated across the wider Midlands area, figures show.

Sutton Coldfield is leading the way as the town hall delivers thousands of first and second jabs, aided by an army of medical professionals and volunteers.

Tens of thousands of people have now been vaccinated at the town’s iconic building.

Dr Rahul Dubb, from Sutton Coldfield Group Practice, the local GP leading on vaccinations, worked with the Royal Sutton Coldfield Town Hall management team, University Hospitals Birmingham, the Town Council, MP Andrew Mitchell and other key figures to enable the site to open at the beginning of February.

The 5.3 million figure for the West Midlands is a major milestone and comes as anyone over 30 can now book an appointment for their jab.

Over the next few days, one million people across the country aged 30 and 31 will be invited via text message.

Birmingham’s director of public health said reaching a younger age group was important to protect them against variants of the virus.

“What we are seeing from across the world where we have these new variants, is that it’s a younger audience ending up in hospital – the people who are vaccinated are protected and the younger age groups are starting to end up in A&E.

“The faster we can vaccinate everyone the more protected we are against these new variants,” he said.

He said the success story of reaching millions of people in the region was down to giving people access to get vaccinated.

“It’s the entire system working together to put forward the vaccine in a way that gets to people and gives them the chance to protect themselves from a third wave,” he added.


Larnaka revamps Thematic Cycling Routes 2021 to encourage sustainable mobility

As Europe begins to re-open for foreign travel, the Larnaka Tourism Board has updated its Larnaka Thematic Cycling Routes to encourage sustainable mobility and showcase the variety of attractions across the region.

Larnaka is a cyclist’s paradise with its excellent year-round climate, unique cultural attractions, stunning vistas, and variety of fauna and flora. Adults and older children/teenagers alike can enjoy cycling in fresh clean air, with challenging, yet varied and picturesque terrain. 

Now with these thematic routes, a bike ride can also be combined with a piece of history or tradition. There are eight themed cycling routes that can be downloaded from the website and include a map, distances, altitude differences, degree of difficulty, the type of bike that is recommended to be used, plus the various points of interest.

Below are the key highlights for each of the eight routes:

Neolithic Route – the oldest cycling route in Europe, this 28 km route focuses on the antiquities of Choirokoitia and Kalavasos Tenta Neolithic Settlements, plus the villages of Tochni, Zygi, Maroni and Psematismenos.

Wine & Gastronomy Route – a 54 km route covering the picturesque villages in the mountainous province of Larnaka, such as Lefkara, Kato Drys, Skarinou and Choirokoitia, with opportunities to visit traditional wineries, silversmith artisans and a Halloumi cheese workshop. 

Multi-religious Route – this 18 km route visits various places of worship of various religions within the city. Although the island has strong ties to Christianity throughout its history, a basic characteristic of Cyprus is the peaceful coexistence of several other religions, including those of Catholics, Muslims, Armenians and Maronites.

Venetian Towers (Eastern) – Constructed over 500 years ago, the Venetian Watchtowers acted as an early warning system against naval attacks and remain intact in four separate villages within the district. This 46 km route includes watchtowers at the villages of Pyla and Xylofagou.

Venetian Towers (Western) – This 17 km bike tour takes cyclists to two watchtowers in the western area of Larnaka at the villages of Pervolia and Alaminos.

Camel & Donkey Route – This 50 km route introduces cyclists to the island’s furry friends – an integral part of daily life just 60 -70 years ago – and offers a unique insight on how the locals would move around the island in olden days. It includes suggested visits to Camel Park Mazotos and the Golden Donkeys multi-site farm in Skarinou.

Wheat & Bread Route – This 60 km route showcases the region’s long history of traditional bread-making as it passes through golden wheat fields and takes in a beautifully-restored flour mill, which now serves as a time capsule of Athienou town’s bread-making tradition.

Larnaka Birdwatching Route – This 11 km route is recommended between November and April. With its location on the south-eastern edge of the Mediterranean Sea, Cyprus attracts more than 370 different bird species during their migration from Africa to Europe – and back again. This is one of the best areas on the island to observe these majestic birds, and this route offers the opportunity to visit Voroklini Lake, Larnaka Salt Lake, Larnaka Marina and Larnaka Medieval Castle. 

For more information visit: www.larnakaregion.com/page/thematic-cycling-routes

For more information on Larnaka Tourism Board, visit www.larnakaregion.com

The life of a Covid volunteer

Sutton Coldfield Town Hall has been a huge vaccination success story

Bill McCarthy has spent time as an NHS steward at a Sutton vaccination centre, he tells why he feels privileged to join the volunteer army.

‘It’s the anti-vaxxers who make life difficult for us. They often come in with their relatives who want to be vaccinated only to spread their conspiracy theory messages.’

That was the sad verdict of a vaccination centre volunteer steward, who feels vital work to combat the Covid-19 pandemic is being undermined by a selfish minority.

Volunteers have become part of the lifeblood of the country’s response to the pandemic, along with the heroic efforts of NHS staff, and spending time on the frontline with fellow volunteers is a rewarding experience and a chance to meet people from all walks of life.

The global pandemic has had a profound effect on the world with millions of deaths, leaving families bereaved, millions more infected, and tens of thousands of jobs lost.

It has also had a profound effect on people. Let’s be honest we are still in a daze as we try to take in the enormity of it all.

We have had the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme or furlough, virus mutations, hospitals at breaking point and finally riding to the rescue, a group of vaccines.

But the vaccine rollout has been a stunning success and Sutton Coldfield is an outstanding example of this. The main  centre at the town hall has vaccinated thousands since it opened for that purpose back in February. There, the medics and a huge army of volunteers have carried out a slick and hugely successful programme so far.

These unsung volunteers  freely give up their time to support fellow human beings in a time of crisis, sometimes in the face of disdain and often hostility.

While a small minority of people have profiteered from the crisis, this volunteer army has stepped up to the plate and shamed them with their selflessness.

Supporting hard-pressed health workers delivering the vaccine, they perform often mundane, but important tasks. This ranges from helping others with shopping, picking up prescriptions or spending hours on their feet acting as stewards, administrators, data uploads or car park attendants at vaccination centres across the country, mostly uncomplaining, accommodating and anxious to help.

I have spent some time both as a volunteer responder, and as a steward where people, mostly, are so grateful for the help and guidance you can offer them.

They are all ages, men and women, young people working in tandem with retirees, working sometimes double shifts, sometimes in wind, snow and hail and making sure people get their vaccination with the minimum of disruption.

They do it because they care and certainly not for financial reward or any plaudits they might receive.

Gratitude, unfortunately is not always so forthcoming at vaccination centres. Most people are polite as you help them through the process, but some, too many really, are downright rude and demanding.

They are also unwilling to follow the advice and can  become abusive.

You also come face to face with the anti-vaxxers, so seem determined to undo the good work that is going on. Engaging them with conversation sadly seems pointless and one volunteer grimly observed: “well its their funeral.”

It is not much to ask people to take 15 minutes out of their lives to sit and wait after having the Pfizer vaccine. It is for their own good and volunteers know this, but sadly many of these people seem to think they know better than the doctors and medics. They may feel well, but if they get into a car and suffer after effects, they put other lives in danger.

It’s a difficult conundrum for volunteers. You give the advice as forcefully, but politely as you can, but if people choose to ignore it and become abusive, there is little can be done except move on to the next person.

Despite all of that there are many who appreciate the time people have given up to volunteer. Quite often you will hear the phrase, ‘thank you for what you are doing.’ 

That in itself offsets the negativity from the more abusive people.

It can be lonely work for the volunteers. Isolated on a parking area alone directing traffic can lead to confrontations, while shepherding people through the vaccination process also has its challenges.

My shift started at around 6.30am and five hours later ended with a sense of achievement with more than 10,000 steps recorded, ushering and organising people who had their jabs. That’s more than many of my lengthy walks in Sutton Park.

A real bonus is meeting people from all walks of life, with many interesting stories to tell. Fellow steward Jack has been volunteering for more than two months. At the age of 75 he is fit and active. So active in fact that the previous day he had completed nearly nine hours completing two shifts at the centre.

A Yorkshireman, he was previously a high-powered executive for a famous worldwide logistics company, he had spent more than a quarter of a century living in Africa and had visited every country on that continent except for Libya. He was also around in Zimbabwe and South Africa while those countries were in conflict.  

He was a model of patience and helpfulness during that particular stint and made life much easier for yours truly.

There is not that much time for social chit chat during the shift, but the sense of camaraderie is intense. Madeleine was another one working alongside me. A local woman with children and grandchildren, her sparkling personality and wicked sense of humour certainly made the hours pass. She was determined not to let any negativity get to her and happy to complete any task asked of her, as did the rest of the volunteers.

Strangers become friends for a short period with simple, kind acts like making you a drink while you are shivering away in the cold or just exchanging a few friendly words of encouragement. We are all. in this together seems to be consensus.

Throughout all this the doctors, nurses and health professionals continue with their vital work of getting the nation vaccinated.

Lockdowns have left people lonely and isolated, massively disrupted family life. We are gradually coming out of it, although dangers are still starkly present, not least with Indian variant of the virus.

One thing is for certain, the contribution of these volunteers has made the country a safer place.