Last week was DS1’s eighth birthday. Birthdays are a big deal, like they are for any kid. Although they can be a touch traumatic – a sign we should have recognised when he was just two. We took him to a kid’s festival. All the greats were there: Rastamouse miming live; a giant Peppa Pig – he was scared sh*tless of her; and Bob the Builder – he burst into tears and begged to be

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BURKINA FASO, IVORY COAST 1992 It was becoming very hot and I am starting to feel really sick. The last thing I need is an 18-hour train journey, but, I thought, if the train is half as good as the one from Ouagadougou to Bobo at least I could sleep it off. The train station is unbelievably huge, as it was in Ouaga – there are around 12 ticket desks, but only one is open.

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MALI, BURKINA FASO 1992 As we cross the border from Mauritania into Mali, I notice a dramatic change almost immediately. We are in real Africa. The Africa I had imagined. There seems to be a more relaxed attitude here, a feeling of warmth (not just from the sun, but from the people as well). In Mauritania, and to some extent Morocco, I had felt like an uninvited guest. Tolerated rather than welcomed. But here, I

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I’ve wanted to write a feel-good blog for a while but each time I try I reach an impasse – there's just not the same entertainment value in it. But a recent trip up to Suffolk to see some old friends proved to be the catalyst I was looking for – and, more importantly, a real step forward for the boy. Our annual pilgrimage to the East Anglian coast means that DS1 is familiar with

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