It was a fascinating and thought-provoking visit.
Memorable certainly for the speciality roadside coffin shop in Teshie, where they will make you up a sarcophagus in any shape you order, including lion, fish, eagle, elephant, aeroplane, outboard motor, or even beer bottle. And yes, running shoe can be arranged.
From there to Tema, ‘Planned City at the Centre of the World’, recently celebrating its Golden Jubilee in its setting just north of the Equator and astride the Greenwich Meridian.
There I met some fellow geologists, one of them born in the same year and on the same line of longitude as me, the only difference being that whilst one of us had opened his eyes to see the reaches of the Upper Volta, the other had been destined to gaze in awe upon the vast wastelands of Romford.
We shared a common training, but whilst mine was gained through the comfort of a British university and European fieldwork, my colleagues’ had been carved out through the toil of six-year bursaries to Romanian or Russian universities, having to learn a new language first and only then getting down to the Ceausescu- or Brezhnev-sponsored rocks.
Lives different in every respect, separated only by an accident of 50 degrees of latitude, and destined to cross in bizarre circumstances for a lunchtime Chinese in the Gate of Asia just outside Accra.
Needless to say, there was no training involved. The terrain outside the hotel included a congested dual carriageway and a beach of rolling breakers populated by hordes of bothersome hawkers, totally and enthusiastically committed to selling everything from sunlounger space to the devoted attentions of their closest female relatives. Both the road and the beach led directly onto a military firing range where the generals were shot after the last failed coup some years ago now.
Everywhere we went, and in whatever setting, we were unfailingly met with great courtesy, warmth and respect, and most notably I did not meet a single Ghanaian without a huge smile, as well as an uncanny interest in the Premiership. The scarcity of West Ham fans in the country could only too easily be implicated in their abiding optimism, but finally I was left reflecting on the fundamental problems of our own society with its unrealistic and overwhelming expectations of health, wealth and contentment. It was a valuable lesson to be reminded that where life is so much harder, people just get on and make sure they enjoy it.
The humid weather and my personal attempts to energise the local economy through the consumption of local beer may also arguably have had something to do with the Ghana-sized gap residing in my training log. Although finally the only runs I experienced were of the African variety, it could definitely have been much worse, as illustrated by the overnight delay on our return flight from Accra, the ‘compelling operational reason’ on this occasion being the BA co-pilot’s unwise consumption of the local lobster at lunchtime.
Since returning, I have struggled for condition and from the difficulties involved in running with tightly clenched buttocks. But at last the worst seems to be behind me…., and after a tense 8-miler yesterday and a breathless run-walk 5 today, three more gentle miles tomorrow should see me back on track at least to finish on Sunday. My unconventional preparation and the company of 47 000 Geordies should put paid to any thought of a PB, and I am decided that this should be one of life’s joyous and unique experiences to savour.
My goals, then, are above all to enjoy the day, naturally provided that I can give Paula a good run for her money, and, of course, Andy a good run for his hat.
124. Exploring Africa with Bono
103. Atlas shrugged – in the mountains of Morocco
5. La vida latina – from Houston to Mexico
102. Moroccan red – Marrakech
98. Off the shoulder of Orion – Costa de la Luz