Category Archives: Family

Premature Mango Harvest

One morning there was suddenly a huge crashing noise just outside the homeschool room; one of our mango trees had over-reached itself in enthusiasm for producing hefty fruit and a large branch crashed to the ground. Green, unripe (but rather large) mangos were scattered all over the place. We picked up a massive basket load which provided a great opportunity for practising estimation. Around 100 mangos were then cooked into a very convincing “apple sauce” to the surprise and interest of our gardener Samuel who had never considered cooking mangos, let alone unripe ones.

Fallen branch from our mango tree
Fallen branch from our mango tree
A basket of about 100 large unripe mangos from the fallen branch
A basket of about 100 large unripe mangos from the fallen branch

Homeschool resuming

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Tea break in our school room

Homeschool started again for Rebekah and Elizabeth a few days after we arrived back in Nigeria. Rebekah was back to her familiar pink desk, and Elizabeth chose purple for an identical desk that our carpenter Weze made for her. Abigail is keen not to be left out, but she also lost no time in forming a strong friendship with 2 year-old David who moved to next door while we were away in the UK. Auntie Sarah has been helping to look after Helen while working on the morning chores so that Julie has a bit of peace to teach the big girls. They’ve been getting going by 8 and finishing up around noon.

Threatening Rainbow

Never before had a rainbow seemed so threatening.

It was on the walk to school this morning. With the clouds rushing towards the low winter morning sun overhead, I looked West and saw a rainbow. Actually it was my daughters who spotted it first and they love a good rainbow. But where they saw pots of gold I saw trouble. It was then that I realised that in the rush to get out of the house with girls suitably attired (no need for waterproof trousers this sunny Monday) I had neglected to bring my own coat. At the same moment I realised that the beautiful bow in the sky was quite likely being produced by rain that would soon engulf us.

I was wrong actually… it was hail. Well, hail at first and sleety rain later.

So that’s why when I saw the rainbow I said, “Run!” And we did.

Rebekah on backing babies and wearing headties

We sent some Nigerian clothes, snacks and photos to a British primary school doing a focus on Africa. Here’s a brief video we made to explain how you back a baby with a wrapper and wear a head tie.

  • Head of wardrobe: Julie Rowbory
  • Assistant costume designers: Elizabeth and Abigail
  • Model: Rebekah

BA’s worryingly unreliable baggage allowances for children [UPDATED]

Update 23 June 2014

After posting this to Twitter and Facebook last week I was contacted and told that an agent would get in touch. Eventually that happened and they have told me that they’ve sent £140 by cheque, but without admitting explicitly that anything was wrong, nor giving any clearer assurance about what we should do in the future.

Executive summary and why all families should be worried about travelling with BA: British Airways do not always honour the extra children’s car seat / stroller allowances that they quote on their website; sometimes you may be charged for every car seat as excess piece of luggage and other times not. Do not believe their website; their customer service refuse to honour it.

Disclaimer: I don’t like having to write this post, but it seems important for others that it be written so that they can be warned.

Our experience:

We flew from Belfast City Airport to Abuja, Nigeria, via London Heathrow on Sunday 19 January 2014.

My wife and I were travelling with 2 children and an infant. The infant was allowed one extra hold bag in addition to the standard 3 bags paid for on our charity fare booked by Key Travel. So our total allowance of checked bags was to be 13.

baggage grid showing child allowances

We had 2 booster child seats for the children (age 3 and 5, so required by law to travel to the airport in those seats) which are allowed as extra items, and a car seat for the infant and a push-chair. BA policy published on their website allows the car seats and push chair to be taken as extra hold items (without charge). However when we were about to arrange this at the checkin desk, the staff member told us that we would have to pay separately for all the 3 car seats. The staff member said that she was unable to check the car seats through without paying extra. I asked for a supervisor and she was unwilling or unable to contact one, since she didn’t actually work for BA but for another company.

Car seats wrapped up so we didn't have to pay £140 for each of the 3, just one £140 charge.
Car seats had to be wrapped up in a rather expensive £140 plastic bag.

Understandably we were unhappy about this, but no option was presented to us except putting the car seats in a bag and paying £140 for it as an extra case, and taking part of one car seat as carry-on hand baggage. The agents (“Siobhan” and another colleague) were unwilling even to write a note explaining what they had insisted and the reasoning behind the withdrawal of the child seat allowance. This at the time seemed suspicious to me, but there seemed no way to force their hand.

Our ‘Manage my booking’ details and the BA economy allowances policy available online makes it clear that child and infant tickets include an allowance for taking a car seat/booster seat and a stroller for each child/infant. The staff were unwilling to listen to reason and purported to have their hands tied.

This has never been a problem for us before travelling in and out of Glasgow International Airport, Belfast International Airport, London Heathrow and Abuja International Airport where the child seat allowance has always been honoured.

Shaken by this, and more than a little annoyed, we wrote to BA customer service who took over 2 months to reply. Surprisingly, even after some back-and-forth to make sure the situation was correctly understood by all the BA customer services replies asserted:

Firstly, I would like to apologise for the delay in replying to you.  I am sorry to learn that Mr Rowbory and his family had an unpleasant experience at Belfast airport when checking in their baggage. 

I have checked our records and can confirm that the car seats that Mr Rowbory wanted to carry as a free checked baggage was in excess of his maximum allowance.  Mr Rowbory was charged correctly.

Best regards
Soumya Poolerichalil
British Airways Customer Relations

After replying that this disagreed with their website policy, their reply of 14 April was as follows:

As stated in our previous response, Mr David Rowbory and his family had carried 15 pieces of checked luggage including the car seats.  The car seats were in excess of the total checked baggage allowance.  Hence, Mr Rowbory was not allowed to carry the car seats as a free checked luggage.

This means that BA do not consider the children’s and infants’ allowances (3 items) to actually be free. You will note that 13 items were paid for on the tickets and the extra 2 were easily within the total of 3 seats + 3 strollers quoted on the baggage website. I wrote to customer services because I could see that it was important not just for us but for every other family to see whether BA would honour their stated extra allowances for children. Our conclusion is that sometimes a car seat (as with RyanAir) counts against our allowance as an item of hold baggage, but other times it does not (as with most airlines, including EasyJet). With BA you cannot be sure. Part of the problem may come from the way BA has contracted out so much of its operation. It would appear that the Belfast City checkin staff didn’t know anything about BA policy, nor did they care about customer service. The customer service staff seem to know nothing about the website.

Before you travel with BA with a family you should probably write to customer services (maybe 3 months ahead of time, given their response rate) to find out whether or not you can take car seats for free in addition to other baggage allowance. This is the plain reading of their terms and conditions but not the practice this last time (though every other time we travelled it has been that way). Alternatively it may be financially safer to travel with almost any other long-haul carrier.

Please do spread this news so that others are suitably warned. Feel free to contact us if you have any queries or would like more details.

The Rains have Begun!

A week and a day ago rainy season began here in Jos. We had had a couple of rains in earlier April, but a week ago we clearly moved from generally-clear skies to cloudy ones. A slice of bread left out overnight wasn’t turned utterly to crust by the morning as it would normally be in dry season. And a week in there’s green grass sprouting up again. Within 2 days we suddenly had a flower bed brimming with beautiful pink blooms. OK we now need to start worrying about what’s been left out in the garden overnight, and remembering to take an umbrella with us and maybe wear closed shoes, but it’s lovely to see the colour more fully come back to the world around us.

Tonight I think we have our first really heavy rain.

Full House


Visiting Alanna reading to Creightons and Rowborys
Another nice thing about our new house has been having space to have people stay. Recently we enjoyed having the Creighton family stay with us for a week or so while husband Rick was at a conference in Brazil. They’re the British family we have visited in Kagoro and done joint home-school things with recently. Their 3 children are quite close in age to Rebekah, Elizabeth and Abigail, and they get on very well together. It’s just a blessing that we’ve got a bigger house now so that it is possible to have people stay, and lovely to have the fairly large garden for the children to run around in.

They live in Kagoro, the heart of the Gworog language, just an hour and a half from Jos and where David visits from time to time to work with the translation team. So we all tend to go to Kagoro together and Julie and the girls hang out with mum Alanna and Asha (6), Conor (4) and Jack (2) doing some of the educational things that work better with more children. Taking the kids along seems to be a good way to get through the 4-7 army/police security checkpoints en-route happily and speedily too.

Pile on mummy!And talking of travel I (David) am off soon after the crack of dawn tomorrow to ‘Tal’ where we’re going to have a shot at collecting hundreds if not thousands of words to kickstart a dictionary project. I’ll try to report on that next week. Prayers for smooth travel appreciated. It should be a 2 hour drive I’m told, so I plan to go there and back in the one day, so as to be back in time for commitments back in Jos.

Love from us all, D+J, R, E & A

(In the first pic you’ll not spot Julie, but Alanna reading to 5 of the 6 kids that were enlivening the house that week.)

A home ‘school’ room

weekly176One of the exciting aspects of living in the new house has been the extra space, particularly the school room. This dedicated room has made it so much easier for Rebekah to focus on what she’s learning (and increasingly Elizabeth who doesn’t like to be left out). Home educating the girls has also led to some other opportunities to get to know other families. A few weeks ago we managed to get together some other ex-pat families who are home educating and we plan to meet regularly, especially to do things that work better in a larger group. Julie also met some Nigerian mums who are home educating their children and we are hoping they will be able to join us.

The school room has also had some other rather exciting uses. For about two years now, Julie has been very keen to get a women’s Bible study going. She was particularly hoping to have one where the focus was on a Bible book and getting into the text, rather than a Christian book, and was keen for there to be a mix of Nigerian and ex-pat women. At last, on Tuesday, the group had the first study on the book of Colossians. There were six women in total, representing four different nationalities, married and single, with children and without, and with an age range of about forty years. This is such an answer to prayer and we are hoping it will continue to go well.

Thanks once more for your support and prayers.

David, Julie, Rebekah, Elizabeth and Abigail

We’ve Moved

New HouseWe moved house! Actually we moved just over a week ago and have been unpacking and settling into our new house since. We’re on a compound called ‘Mountain View’, and unsurprisingly there is a large hill just at the back of the compound adorned with water tower and radio masts. Rebekah and Elizabeth have been enjoying playing a bit with another wee Northern Irish girl who lives on the same compound.

Most of the bags are unpacked. David’s taking on the challenge of remounting our mosquito nets in an aesthetically-pleasing manner (hopefully). We’ve hooked up a whole-house power backup system with 3 huge batteries which currently unfortunately omits most of the lights in the house. (Oops.) Washing machine is ensconsed in the nice large bathroom and the somewhat large hole in the bathroom wall where the outflow pipe went even got patched up by the plumbers last week.

Meanwhile friends of friends moved into our old house 4 days after we left. Intriguingly Elizabeth refers to our old house as ‘Nigeria’, as in “When we used to live in Nigeria we only had 2 bedrooms but now we have 4.” Maybe the dedicated home-education room needs to be dedicated to a bit of geography. As for Abigail, she loves the fact that this house comes with a climbing wall (stone fireplace) and all manner of opportunities for sneaky ascent.

It’s back to work for us all this week. Unfortunately we brought back a nice British cold virus which we’re all suffering from.

A quick visit back to the UK

Happy New Year! We’ve been on the road the last week, all in the run-up to the family wedding we celebrated on Saturday near Exeter. We left Jos on Monday at lunchtime to be driven down to Abuja with a fairly modest load of suitcases, then stayed overnight before flying to Heathrow the next morning. Since then we’ve been glad to see friends and a few relatives around England en-route to Exeter and have now flown up to Glasgow for a week, again catching up with family and friends, as well as handing our flat over to an agent to let while we’re away.

The wedding itself was lovely and relaxed, with Dave and Becky organising lots of things themselves and with quite a few children there too. Rebekah contributed a (pre-recorded!) prayer for the couple and Abigail and Elizabeth contributed a certain amount of volume too.

Coming back to the UK in the midst of wintry wind and rain has been a bit of a shock for us all, but we’re well kitted up now with all the warm clothes and boots we need for the next couple of weeks in Glasgow and Northern Ireland before we head back to warmer climes again.

Love from us all, and perhaps we’ll see some of you this week or next. Apologies if we miss you; it’s only a flying visit.