I've come to the conclusion that the reason I'm spending more and more time outside the UK, is a deep need to live in places that have a distinctive culture. India has a clearly defined identity which is supported by Hinduism, I'll leave aside Islam for now, as it replaces indigenous culture with doctrine. Thailand, Japan and Tibet, including Kham and Amdo; now part of China, are supported by their own interpretations of Buddhism. Bali remains distinct from the rest of Indonesia, due to its own take on Hindu ideas. The rest of Indonesia, along with Malaysia and the Philippines have lost almost all their culture, traded in for American style materialism. I was rather shocked to see a poster outside a MacDonalds in Manila, which advised parents to book their child's birthday event with a credit card, under the slogan, "Party now, pay later!" Most of us in the West have adopted this philosophy quite happily, only to find the party doesn't last long, after the payments have been made. Growing up in 50s Wales, we didn't have this lifestyle option, if you couldn't afford it you didn't buy it. It forced us into living a restricted and rather repressive culture but there was a culture, due to having to make fun for ourselves, because we couldn't buy fun. Almost every house in Glynneath had a piano in the front room and my grandfather played the trombone, encouraged by the colliery, to help combat his advancing silicosis. When our annual carnival came around, there was a true sense of competition amongst the marching bands. My favourite entertainment came from the infamous "Jews' Band" every village had its own take on this mischievous parody of Jewish tradesmen. Each member of the band wore the orthodox black suit and hat, draped in items of hardware from their various trades. Impossible today but outrageously funny at the time, particularly the ladies' underwear merchant. What happened? Last year I was at the St.Paul's Afro-Caribbean carnival, rather than attending the debut of the Aberdabadare event, in my home town. I'm afraid there were no regrets on my behalf, St.Paul's is a glorious celebration of distinct culture, which has now been absorbed into Bristol's identity, as much as the Banksy graffitti, which culturally helped redefine the city. People spend the whole year in preparation of a presentation of what they see as an important representation of what is important in their lives in Bristol and community is at the heart of the event. Cultural celebration is an escape from mundanity, sadly in South Wales since the end of the coal mining era, escape is found through drink and drugs, and an entertainment subculture, which is fuelling the economy of the UK. Sadly our adoption of Christianity hasn't proved strong enough to hold our society together. We have forgotten and for the most part lost our connection to our indigenous, druidical past. Fortunately there are always a few strong individuals who try to keep our heritage alive. As for Aberdare, our council could at least try to reinstate the past glory of its park, when coaches from across the country would bring people there for a fun day. They can't even manage to keep water flowing in the fountain, a twin of the one outside Raffles hotel, Singapore and now they don't want to put water in the children's paddling pool. We might not have the best of sunshine but we do have plenty of rain, so how about we adopt a Thai style, Songkran water festival on August Bank Holiday and throw buckets of warm water over each other? Let's celebrate what little we have left, suggestions welcome.
Flood destroys Jatta home in the Gambia, West Africa.
Elizabeth Jatta's house was destroyed by flooding in 2009. It was a lovely mud brick home but without electricity, now they live in a zinc shed. She finds it impossible to visit her family home in Guinea Bissau. Bus Fare would like to give her the opportunity to travel back to her home village. If we were to send her the fare, she would spend it on the house but it is nice to give people the option.