Story telling from Australia
They came to rest last Friday, after a week stored in a fridge in Nairobi, then another week suspended on a coat hanger in the wardrobe of our London hotel, gently exuding the scent of Christmas.
One of them, as you know, was destined for St James’s Palace, home to TRH Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwell. The meeting should have taken place earlier in the week on Tuesday, but it got postponed until Friday, which as it turned out was HRH’s birthday. What a happy coincidence then for CC to arrive with a gift.
I imagine everyone who visits royalty must arrive bearing gifts of one sort or another, although perhaps not from so far away, and surely few can have been made with such loving attention. Hopefully the inclusion of a chapter from Love in the Outback, explaining the work that goes into pudding production each year from members of the Royal Flying Doctor Service Broken Hill Women’s Auxiliary, might serve to nudge that particular gift closer to the royal kitchen. Who knows? At least I can stop worrying about that pudding now, and the others will soon have homes to go to as well.
So here we are in London, a city that seems to contain more animals than Kenya (most of them roaming Oxford Street or Piccadilly on a Friday and Saturday night).
The Royal Flying Doctor Service gala dinner, organised by the UK Friends of the RFDS, was held at the Imperial War Museum last Thursday night and it raised over £100,000, thanks in no small part to the efforts of auctioneer Jeffrey Archer – yes that Jeffrey Archer – who turned out to be a damn fine auctioneer.
His good-natured banter made people part with a lot of money, and after the auction proper had finished he went around the tables, still holding his microphone.
‘Now, I want as many people as possible to pledge a donation of £250. How many people on this table will give me £250? You sir? Thank you. And you? Thank you Madam. Who’s the richest person on this table? Point him out. Thank you sir, that’s another £250.’
By the end of his circuit he’d raised enough money to buy two new neonatal incubators and I had tears in my eyes.
Earlier in the evening they’d been tears of laughter when Australian comedian Adam Hills had invited first John Milhinch then Clyde onto stage, where for some bizarre reason they had to impersonate the singer James Brown. Yes, there is a video clip, and no, I’m not allowed to show it to you (well, not yet anyway.)
You can see some of the pics here – http://www.royalflyingdoctor.org.uk
Then there were tears of joy as Kate Ceberano sang, The first time ever I saw your face, a silken thread of emotion that poured out of her heart and touched everyone in the room. I didn’t have much mascara left by the end of the night.
On that same night hundreds of miles away in Venice, representatives from the African Flying Doctor Service were attending another dinner, to decide this year’s winner of the Air Ambulance Operator of the Year Award. As a member of the Board, CC’s mind must have been half in England, half in Venice.
AMREF Flying Doctor won the award a couple of years ago, an incredible achievement for a service that deals on a daily basis with conflict zones, cross-border operations, politics and bureaucracy. Gaining flight clearances is cumbersome and clearing customs and immigration extremely challenging. When you add terrorism, tribal clashes, drought, famine and corruption into the equation it must make operating an efficient Air Ambulance Service in Africa a challenging task.
I toured their visitor centre in Nairobi while I was there and it was clear that the AMREF Flying Doctor Service helps some of the poorest people in the world. Just like in Australia, pilots are often forced to land on remote, uncontrolled bush strips after dark, landing with only car headlights at the end of a dirt runway. In the ops room a piece of string attached to a huge map on the wall somehow helped them calculate how long it would take to fly from one area to another, crossing borders, covering vast distances.
And you know what? They did it again. AMREF Flying Doctor was once again declared the 2014 winner of the Air Ambulance Operator of the Year Award. Many congratulations to everyone involved, especially the CEO Bettina and Operations Manager Sean.
I reckon we should send them a pudding!