Cow Cart fun…Yeehaa!


When I arrived for my Cow Cart experience here in Cambodia and they handed me the special hat and scarf that goes with the whole experience,  I, of course, immediately felt like Karen Blixen and had to fight back the words, ‘I once had a house in Arfrika.’ Although I would very much like to one day say ‘I once had a house in Siem Reap’

I love this country so passionately that to leave it in a few days will cause me the same physical pain it always produces. I laugh so much here. Not only with family but with the Cambodian people too, who are just fabulous. I’m lucky to have family living here but even so it is easy to make friends here and there are some wonderful places to stay which do not charge the earth.

The Cow Cart experience alone was hysterical. A wonderful enterprise set up by Cambodian students. What a great idea. As we prepared in my step son’s flat to leave, the rain just fell down. From the window we could see the children running out into the downpour to enjoy the monsoon while all we could think was, ‘It would piss down now wouldn’t it?’ Typical Brits off to do a Cow Cart ride through the heart of Cambodia in a monsoon, made me smile.  Every time I choose to do something unusual here, a monsoon comes. Memories of my Bamboo train experience came flooding back and I immediately turned to Andrew who I saw had a rain mac. Why is it he always comes  prepared?

‘They have some at Apsara market,’ says my daughter in law, helpfully.

Apsara market is the equivalent to the local coop, in case you were wondering.

I look at Andrew pleadingly. Well, I don’t have any head covering or a jacket at least he has a rain mac already. He gives me that despairing look, tells me to stop scratching my bites (of which I have thousands, at least it feels like thousands)

‘Okay, I’ll go and get one,’ he says.

Ten minutes later he returns with a bright pink rain mac. I don’t like to complain. I look at my daughter in law.

‘I hope this isn’t like a pink rag to a cow,’ I say, which sets her off laughing hysterically before we even leave.

The Tuk tuk has arrived and we all climb in. Within seconds I am scratching like mad. The plastic from the rain mac is making me so hot that every bite I have goes insane.

‘Stop scratching,’ says Andrew.

‘Take an anti-histamine,’ says my stepson. I don’t like to say I have well overdosed on anti-histamines now.

The tuk tuk ride to the farm where we are to meet the cow cart is pleasant and the rain stops. But just because the rain has stopped doesn’t mean it won’t start again and of course just thirty minutes of a monsoon means everywhere is flooded. The tuk tuk stops suddenly.

‘You walk,’ says the driver.

Of course we have no idea where we actually have to walk to, but the frightening conclusion we come to is that is must be the only dirt road that we can see which is now water is logged. I’m wearing sandals so the thought of negotiating this dirt track is not terribly appealing. But of course we do it, arriving at the Cow Cart village with muddy feet but very dry bodies, if not itchy (in my case). We are shown our carts and wonder of wonders the sun comes out. Our adventure begins. If you ever do visit Cambodia and I can’t recommend it enough, you will never regret it. I never want to return home but if you do then you must do the cow cart experience for an experience it truly is. If you are anything like us you will have great fun. In our case because the weather was so bad one of our cow carts couldn’t get down the dirt track but no one told us this. At least if they did we didn’t fully understand it. So when all five of us tried to climb into one cart you can imagine the fear in our eyes.Image

‘You do two hour trip?’ the girl asked.

God, I’ll be scratching myself to bits, I think, and in these cramped conditions I won’t have to worry about DVT on the flight home, I’ll most likely get it on the cow cart. Not to mention my daughter in law who was already complaining about cramp in her foot where I was sitting on it. I had visions of them amputating it after two hours of this. Off we go, or should I say off we bumped. Twice we nearly lost Andrew, not to mention my womb and my stepson’s hat. We giggled so much that I’m surprised we didn’t all fall off. A few minutes later we arrive to where another cow cart waits and we all sigh with relief. We will have one each. We alight and wander off to the rice wine making factory, picture below.

DSC_4461 DSC_4451







and just make it before the rain pours again.


 Obviously we all had a good swig of the wine first. Believe me I felt we needed it. A Cow Cart experience may be better slightly pissed I thought.  But then Cook luck set in and soon the sun began to shine and we climbed into our separate carts. This is no easy feat let me tell you, especially after a glass of rice wine, or should I say plastic mug. First we have to jump up into the cart backwards. I barely do things that well when I am going forward so you can imagine me trying to jump up backwards onto a cow cart, then again maybe you don’t want to imagine it… Once I’m up I have to dangle my legs over and remove my sandals so the mud doesn’t dirty the cart. Finally, one big heave backwards and I am as intimate with the cow cart driver as one can be. Andrew then follows and I push my legs down the side of him and off we go with bump and a strange noise from the driver. I seriously thought the guy had a bad case of wind until I realised his odd burping sounds were instructions to the cows. I don’t know what I imagined this trip would be like but I have to say it was an experience of a lifetime and the beauty of Cambodia is breath taking. There was one scary moment when a bike got in our way and we had to veer into the water. But amazingly the cart stayed upright. We stopped at a crematorium and Monastery and had a break for a drink (this time water) before travelling through the villages and countryside. Once the cart tried to leave without me almost sending me sprawling into the mud as I was about to jump on, much to Andrew’s amusement. As it got late we went to where the families fish and have family time. It was the most intimate I have been with the Cambodian people in all my visits here. Our two hour trip lasted much longer and by the time we got back to the farm I could barely feel my bum. But it was worth every minute as you can see.

DSC_4545-001 DSC_4527 DSC_4512

DSC_4525 DSC_4515DSC_4551DSC_4604


We thanked our Cow Cart hosts and paid and were taken back down the dirt road to meet our Tuk Tuk driver who was going to drive us back  to my stepson’s apartment. The journey was like tuk tuk Grand Prix. We were thrown all over the place. Meanwhile James my stepson is asking,

‘Do you want a takeaway Indian when we get back?’

‘Yes,’ I say in a shaky voice as we go over a huge bump and my handbag jumps up and whacks me in the chin.

‘The usual butter chicken,’ he asks, obviously more used to bumpy tuk tuks than me.

I grab the loose handle hanging from the top of the tuk tuk as we bounce around a corner and I almost slide out. My daughter in law laughs hysterically as James asks do we want poppadum’s.

‘Why are you asking me this now?’ I ask scrambling to grab my camera before it smashes to the floor as we take a corner on one wheel (a tuk tuk only has two)

‘I know what you women are like.  I may not get your attention later.’

Like he’s getting it now. I say this to him only to have him fall about laughing. Or maybe he just fell about because the tuk tuk went over another bump.

I ask you, men!

Go to Cambodia and go on a Cow Cart and preferably get a tuk tuk home like ours. Life is fun, and here you can have the best fun of your life. Enjoy the smiling people for they are the best company ever.
You can find The Cow Cart experience here Facebook here.


Giving is receiving


When someone takes the time to write a piece about my books I am thrilled. When they offer to feature my lovely orphan kids in Cambodia I am even more thrilled. So I am reprinting it here. The lady who wrote the article is Kathryn Brown and she has written a very good romantic comedy herself called Bednobs and Batchelors. You can buy it on Amazon.

I am currently in Cambodia. A place so close to my heart, that even throwing up seems worth it.

The last few days here have been busy. Last night we went to a nice hotel and watched Apsara dancing, which is beautiful.

Two days ago I visited my sponsored child at The Children’s Sanctuary and you can read more about them here. I am at my happiest here. We tried on the donated clothes I brought with me and played pass the parcel, danced, and generally had fun.


I met with my Cambodian friends for dinner and shopping and of course we went to the circus.

A Cambodian circus is like no other. I urge you to check out the You Tube video here.

Enjoy Cambodia with me.







You can read Kathryn’s piece here. Please do.

The Smiing People


We arrived in Siem Reap, Cambodia at 6.30 and it was already dark. Our journey had been better than previous ones. But long flights are taking their toll on me now and after 18 hours of flying it was enough. But as soon as I stepped on Cambodian soil my spirit lifted. It is hard to say what it is about this country but I have yet to meet someone not touched by the place and its people. What I was aware of, having been here during rainy season in the past, was that it would be wet. But I had not anticipated the devastation and deaths the flooding had caused. Our tuk tuk waded through flooded roads, where people were struggling back with their wares. Children were splashing about happily in the deep waters and waving to us. As always the Cambodian people are accepting their lot. There is no complaining here. No one cares if you are the height of fashion, whether you are rich or poor. These are people rich in good karma, they are cheerful in the face of hopelessness. They have hope when there is no hope and they are the smiling people. They will offer you food when they barely have enough to go around for their own family.

I’m thrilled to be back. To visit my sponsored child Pesai tomorrow is a highlight for me. Where we will play pass the parcel and I know I will have them squeal with delight at the clothes I have brought. They will try them on immediately and thank me with such gratitude that it will bring tears to my ears. These are children that have avoided hand foot and mouth disease, dengue fever, near starvation and loss of family. They will give me food, drink and hugs.  

Today was spent catching up with family and phoning friends and of course photographing the people I love so much.

Monsoons are predicted in the next few days and having lost my Nikon in a previous one several years ago I think I may just leave it at home.

Here are some picturess of a country that is so beautiful that it is impossible not to be moved.













Can you help a child?

In just over two weeks I will be making a trip to Cambodia. A country I consider my second home. I always visit an orphanage there.  The children always need clothes, toys, pencils, games, anything you can offer. It makes their life happier.

These children have no family. The Children’s Sanctuary is their home. It is a small house where they live and somewhat cramped. I have, however, never met happier children.


My first visit to them was almost two years ago now and I have been several times since. I am always made very welcome. On my last visit I was very humbled when the children helped me celebrate my birthday and bought me presents.

My Birthday
My Birthday

The little I can offer them never seems enough. Please help if you can. You can email me at and I will give you an address to send any contributions you have.

Thank you in advance.

Boot Camp Christianity? I think not.


With the atrocious murder of Drummer Lee Rigby at the forefront of the news, it makes me once again consider the dangers of religion and religious cults and how dangerous religion can be when in the wrong hands or misunderstood. I recently blogged about a particular Christian organisation who assaulted my daughter in law on the streets of Cambodia in the so-called name of religion and you can read it here.

I will never mention their name because that is exactly what Mr Lindsay Clark the CEO of this organisation wants me to do in the hope it will drive more traffic to his site. But I’m happy to publish their photos if that would help.
The organisation recently blogged about their visit to Cambodia where they tried to snatch my daughter in law’s bag and then attempted to video her without consent. Of course they didn’t mention this but what bothered me most was how they termed this trip ‘A military training camp for new recruits.’ What kind of religion has military training? And for what possible reason? They then go on to describe the boot camp. How worrying is all this? I’ve never heard such words used in conjunction with religion. The programme is described as

‘More dynamic, interactive and challenging than ever before.  Among other things we have added a ‘sense making day’ to the program where students were regularly required to step out of their comfort zone in order to participate in various team activities and interactive field visits that challenge them to use all their senses to better develop their leadership abilities. 

According to Mr Lindsay Clarke it was during Susan Detroy’s first field trip that the incedent (his spelling) supposedly happened and she was just an observer. An observer of a young woman with a child having her bag snatched and videotaped?
Mr Lindsay Clark


Susan Detroy

Our final correspondence with Lindsay Clarke is as follows.
From: lindsay clarke Sent: 01 May 2013 00:41
Subject: cambodia incedent


Your email was forwarded to me and so I will give you a direct reply. (ORIGINAL EMAIL SENT TO SUSAN DETROY WHICH CAN BE READ AT THE OTHER POST)

I would have great concerns if I were in your position and am personally concerned about anything that could have alarmed —– or for that matter any person whether I or my organisation were involved or not.

However I have emailed your wife and you were copied in, that if you wanted to talk about the matter to let me know and one of our senior team would respond. If the time zones worked that person would probably be me. I am currently in Europe.

However there was no response to this offer.

Instead you sent another email to an intern who is not in a position to reply not just because she has instructions but because she doesn’t have the life experience or background herself, she was an observer on her first day in a cross cultural setting. This literally was Susan’s first day on the field.

By the way I didn’t accidentally include you in an email? (YOU DID MR CLARKE, WHICH IS HOW WE KNEW YOUR TRUE FEELINGS ON THE MATTER)

So let me be very clear.

1. I offered the opportunity for you, your wife or family to speak to a senior member of our team directly – no reply (NO APOLOGY THOUGH)
2. You and you wife have made wrong assumptions about the status of any people involved in this unfortunate incident – do these people really work for me – mistake (THEY THEMSELVES SAID THEY WORKED FOR HIM SO WHAT IS HE ON ABOUT HERE?
3. And then your wife made the biggest mistake in making false allegations and decided to and threatened to defame me personally – that was a big mistake (I ONLY REPEATED WHAT HAPPENED AND THE WORDS OF HIS OWN INTERN!!!)
4. Independently of all of your threats and demands we have processes that are followed regardless and so this matter is under investigation and will be acted on and anyone within our reach that was at fault will be dealt with. (WHICH BEGS THE QUESTION WHY ARE THE PEOPLE STILL WORKING WITH HIM, WHICH THEY ARE!)
All this said I would suggest that it would be prudent of you to make a time to talk with me and it should be a priority from your perspective.
Lindsay Clarke CEO & Founder
Our response

Subject: RE: cambodia incedent

Dear Mr Clarke

Thank you for your offer to have someone phone. However, after reading your email to ‘the team’, in which I was included, I could see your true feelings about the incident and felt it would be pointless to discuss the matter with any of your team. What we would have liked was a genuine apology for the way my daughter-in-law was treated, which we could in turn pass on to her. That would have been the end of the matter as far as we were concerned. However, your email to your team showed such a lack of grace and honour, which ironically are your words from your email, that I have no desire to discuss the matter with you. It seems, from the email to your team, that you put traffic to your site above the respect for others. I find this motivation abhorrent and contrary to my understanding of Christianity, and my view is shared by a lot of other people.

You say that your intern does not have the life experience to respond to my email. My children learnt to say sorry at the age of three, but if she is that incapable then I question why she is part of your team.

I don’t think we will see eye to eye and so, regrettably, I think further contact would be pointless.

Regards and best wishes for the future,
Dr Andrew Cook

Oh, Mr Lindsay Clark if you are going to respond in this way do you not think you should at least make sense and spell words correctly. How else do you expect to have any credibility?
Avoid this organisation at your peril.

All we wanted was an apology. Nothing more, nothing less.

The Christian Approach? I think not!

images (1)

I have a lovely daughter in law. She is Filipino and wouldn’t hurt a fly. She is sensitive and kind and supporting my step son in Cambodia while he works in the hospital, helping those less fortunate than himself.

There is a man named Lindsay Clarke. He is Australian. Lindsay Clark from my experience, is not sensitive and far from kind. I want to tell you about them both because they have a connection which is not only cruel but ‘apparently’ driven by faith and a devotion to Christianity.

This is the story. I hate unfairness, injustice and ignorance and this smacks of all three.

My daughter-in-law was visiting her favourite café in Siem Reap Cambodia last Wednesday. It is one we frequent often when I am there. She was with her two year old son, my grandson, who loves ‘The Blue Pumpkin’ very much, and especially their mango shake.DSC_0052a-1024x682 Suddenly, out of the blue a young man came and grabbed her shopping bag. She was terrified and so was her son. The man was pulling the bag so hard that he was twisting her arm. Fearful of what he may do next she let go of the bag. She called for help but no one came to her rescue. The Khmer people are peaceful and have suffered much in the past and they may have been afraid to intervene. At this point another young man came and began videoing the incident. My daughter-in-law was confused, scared, and hanging onto her child who was crying in fear. A few minutes later some Cambodian women and a young American girl named Susan DeTroy came laughing and giggling in front of her. My daughter-in-law was now shaking and my grandson was hysterical. They told her they were grabbing the bag and videoing   a drama for training purposes for their organisation. My daughter-in-law became very angry, not understanding why they would pick on a mother and a child to use for fun and training, inflicting pain in the process. They never asked her consent to video her and her child. Can you imagine if that happened in England? At first they wouldn’t tell her the name of their organisation claiming they couldn’t remember it and asked her why she was making such a big deal. Fortunately, my stepson was working at the hospital close by and he came with another professional person and suddenly Susan DeTroy could remember everything. They quickly apologised. They said they thought she was Khmer (Cambodian). As though to harass a Cambodian woman would have been acceptable, but surely to harass anyone is unacceptable.

Now, here is where Mr Lindsay Clarke comes in. The organisation they worked for was a Christian one. Christian? I don’t know about you but this isn’t what I thought Christians do. Tell me if you know differently. My daughter-in-law is now too embarrassed to return to ‘The Blue Pumpkin’ and my grandson has been traumatised. Yes, they will get over it but was it necessary? And this is in the name of religion?

So, let’s go back to Mr Lindsay Clarke, who is he exactly? He is the CEO and founder of this organisation who hopes very much that any blog posting of mine will send a lot of traffic to his website, and feels that Susan DeTroy and her colleagues did nothing wrong. Of course this is not what he told me. I emailed Mr Clarke with my concerns. Here is my email verbatim.

Subject: Assault in Siem Reap

Lindsay Clarke

I urge you to respond to this email to explain the disgraceful actions of your organisation before I take further steps… My daughter in law was assaulted by members of your staff in Siem Reap city centre, (Cambodia) outside ‘The Blue Pumpkin’ café. She was with her two year old son and they had their bag grabbed and were videotaped without consent. It was not until later when my step son who works in the hospital in Siem Reap, confronted them did they admit who they worked for… YOU, and said it was for training purposes.

The member of your staff who was confronted was American and apparently named Sue or Susan and was said to be on a Gap year. There were others involved who were Khmer.  In my opinion it would be prudent of you to terminate her time with you and her team as she is discrediting your organisation and Christianity as a whole.

 I am a British novelist and freelance writer with a large readership and following on the internet. I have no qualms to bring this to people’s attention. It is disgraceful to do this kind of thing to people on the streets on Cambodia. They told my daughter in law that they thought she was Khmer (she is Filipino). This makes me think that you consider it acceptable to harass Khmer people. How disgraceful of you. My daughter in law has been left very shaken by this incident especially as your team seemed to find it funny. This time it seems you chose the wrong person and I look forward to your response regarding your very obvious racism and abusive behaviour in this particular case and how you justify it in the name of Christianity.


 Lynda Renham-Cook and Dr Andrew Cook

I cc’d everyone in the organisation and included my husband Andrew Cook. Mr Clarke’s response to me was.

‘Thanks for your email Lynda.

If you would like a phone call from one of our senior team please let me know and we shall arrange it.


 Lindsay Clarke CEO & Founder

However, he sent a completely different email to his team. How do we know this? Mr Clarke ‘replied to all’ not realising my husband was on the cc list. The following email is what Mr Clarke really feels.

  ‘Hi Team,

No one responds to this email, especially you Susan. No need to:) 

I won’t say what I really think on email but basically go for it Lady the publicity will drive traffic to our web site. Oh! Except she doesn’t get any more blog likes that any of us. Check for yourself!!!

So for those not in the info loop, hardly anything this women said is accurate and I will on this occasion not run with her advice, so Susan is going nowhere, didn’t do anything wrong and is fully supported by our team and particularly me. We at ****don’t react we pro act.

Hope you are all having a brilliant week.

Pray for each other and enjoy the journey.



 Lindsay Clarke CEO & Founder  


So Mr Clarke (pictured above) thinks there is nothing wrong in assaulting young women with young children on the streets of Cambodia.

Susan response was.

Subject: Re: Assault in Siem Reap

Thanks for the support guys 🙂


To be fair Susan is young and we all make mistakes. However we wanted her to be aware that people have feelings and that her actions were not the right way to promote Christianity. We hoped for a response as it would have shown she had some integrity. We have not had a response to date. This was my husband’s email to her.

‘Hi Susan

One of my favourite quotes is from Micah 6 verse 8, which reads, “What does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” To me this and the teaching of Jesus on compassion and love for others encapsulates true Christianity. As you are working for a Christian organisation in Cambodia I assume we share the same understanding on this, and we both want to live our lives on this foundation. The reason I am writing to you is to share something that I am troubled with. I am writing to you as the Father-in-law of ***** the mother with the two year old child that you met last Wednesday. ***** is a lovely but sensitive woman who is working hard to support her husband who is on a placement with the main hospital in Siem Reap. She is like any other woman in that she is worthy of respect and love, and the fact that she has an Asian background does not diminish this fact.  Your actions last Wednesday have disturbed her a lot to the extent that she is now uncomfortable to venture into Siem Reap centre. She feels embarrassed and that she has been made a fool of. You may think she is over-reacting but you don’t know her, or her background. It really is very insensitive of Lindsay Clarke to minimise the incident and email you saying No one responds to this email, especially you Susan. No need to :). There actually is a need for a genuine response. ***** was very upset by your conduct with her and by your refusal to give the name of the organisation you work for, and that you only were able to remember this when my Son arrived. Are you really happy, before God, with your conduct?

I know that you have been told that you cannot respond to first email, and therefore I don’t expect a response from this. I only hope that you think about what you are doing and ask yourself if your work with ****** is bringing good to the people you are in contact with. I found Mr Clarke’s email to you (he accidentally included me in the c.c. list) very disturbing for a Christian organisation, but that’s another story.

I hope you enjoy your time in Cambodia. It is a beautiful country with lovely people – please be good to them!

Dr Andrew Cook & Lynda Renham-Cook


But what Mr Clarke does not know is that I am not going to mention his stupid website with his oversized donate button. You can find that for yourself if you are so interested. But I have published his email to show he supports racism, and unsolicited videoing of women and children to highlight his work, which he describes as ‘Christianity’.

The Battambang resort and lizard chasing


One of the places I was desperate to return to when I came back to Cambodia was ‘The Battambang Resort’

My memories of Battambang are full of affection. In July I came here alone. I was very nervous travelling to Asia on my own so I wanted to feel as safe as possible wherever I was staying. Residing with my stepson and daughter in law in Siem Reap always felt safe but I wanted to venture further out. I’d read about Battambang. How could I not be aware of it? It was in Cambodia where ‘Tomb Raider’ was filmed and in Battambang where Angelina Jolie adopted her son Maddox who was Previously living in an orphanage here. In 2003 it saw the inception at Battambang of the Maddox Jolie-Foundation, which has since been changed to Maddox Jolie-Pitt foundation. On discovering it would be a three to four-hour drive from Siem Reap to Battambang in a hired car with a Cambodian man who spoke no English was a bit daunting. However, my stepson James had told me of a great resort there and assured me the taxi journey would be safe. How glad I was that I visited Battambang and met Jan and Phary the owners of the resort. I was shown to my room and was amazed at the size and the comfort. To check out the rooms for yourself follow the Battambang Resort link above.

Jan and Phary
Jan and Phary

It was here six months ago that I went on the Bamboo train. You can read all about that here if you haven’t already. It was also in Battambang that I got caught in one of the worst monsoons ever. My Nikon camera was totally destroyed and I was quite distraught.
Jan and Phary were excellent. They loaned me their camera so I could take photos of the resort and surrounding areas. They were also so supportive during my trip alone here. To be back here again is a pleasure.
The rooms are beautiful and the surrounding area so relaxing that you never want to leave. I was very excited to introduce my husband to Jan and Phary who opened the resort in January 2012. I remember last July Phary struggling to remove a lizard from my room when I became quite afraid of it. I now realise it was totally irrational of me but she never made me feel silly but practically ripped the curtain from the rails to get it at. It was quite a farce. If I did not go down to dinner she would check I was okay. I felt so looked after. I relaxed in a way I never thought possible. There is everything you can wish for. Beautiful rooms, amazing showers, but the most awesome is the fantastic gardens. For me, the most important thing was the wonderful hospitality shown to me by the hosts. One night I missed the bus to the local circus and Jan, himself took me down in his jeep and stayed with me for the performance, bringing me back later. How often do you get that treatment in a hotel or resort? They informed me of everything that was happening so I wouldn’t miss anything interesting and the food here is out of this world.
I want to share my experience of the resort with you so please enjoy the photos and check them out.

View from the french doors of our room.
View from the french doors of our room.



The local bird life
The local bird life
The pool
The pool




Thank you Jan and Phary for yet another wonderful stay. I leave again feeling totally relaxed.

Change of Blog

sanc4Hi all,

From this point onwards all my blog posting and photos about Cambodia will be featured here

I have decided to start a separate blog about my experiences in Cambodia and keep this one for the humourous daily happenings in my life.

I will also be setting up a new blog for my photography.

Stay posted and for those interested in Cambodia then please follow me on open salon.

Thank you.

Air France extortionate charges for charitable goods

bad airline

Those of you who know me well know that I almost always write upbeat blog posts and one of those will follow I guarantee. In the meantime can you bear with me and possibly even help me.
Is it fair for an Airline to ask for £350 in excess baggage when the baggage is for charity in a poverty stricken country? Isn’t this just a little obscene when the item does not cost even half that amount and weighs only 12kg? Doesn’t it defeat the object of giving when you have to pay someone else to do so?
This is our current situation. Can you help?

In just over four weeks I am visiting Cambodia.
My visit will include working at several charities. One of those is Medical Cambodia. This organisation spends much time searching for medical equipment for Siem Reap’s Referral Hospital. Donations are often made from different parts of the world and then taken by anyone who is travelling to the country on holiday or business. I am one of them. The supplies that have been donated and which we wish to take are to improve the health and safety of the staff in the hospital. A donation of 50 pairs of plastic shoes will provide protection for the staff who are not able to afford any alternative to their open sandals, from needles and bodily fluids and the resulting risk of infection of hepatitis, Aids and other blood transmitted diseases. Medical Cambodia have searched extensively and similar shoes cannot be purchased within Cambodia, hence the importance of us taking them.
We are also wishing to take donated clothes and toys to an Orphanage in Siem Reap Cambodia. The children of this Orphanage can be read about here.
We are flying with Air France. I realise we should have checked in advance that Air France would allow some dispensation on the size of the baggage when regarding charitable items. However we didn’t. We have never encountered a problem before and Medical Cambodia has received numerous donations in the past, and no airline has refused any request for an extension on baggage weight or size.
We applied for an extension and were immediately refused. After much negotiations where Air France would not back down we were then emailed that we would be allowed only the usual 20% discount only to have this withdrawn when they realised we did not have a direct flight. No amount of pleading has helped.
They say NO.
We cannot give them £350. It is the principle not the money. I would rather give £350 to the Orphanages and hospitals there. But for Air France to take money from us before it will allow us to put our charity goods onto their plane is nothing short of extortion. It makes a mockery of charity. They are basically making money from a poverty stricken country.
The piece of additional baggage that they wish to charge us £350 for is one large box weighing only 12kilo and measures 42x74x66 cm in size. This is what they arguing with us about…
If you disagree with them and agree with us, here is how you can help.
1) Tweet on Twitter ‘@airfrance u should be ashamed. Allow @lyndarenham to take additional charitable baggage for a reasonable cost to Cambodia #badairline’
2) Go their Facebook page and state the same there
3) Or email Air France and simply cut and past the below text to The General Manager.
‘Please would you allow Lynda Renham-Cook and Dr Andrew Cook to take essential medical items to Cambodia on 15th March without charging them extortionate extra baggage rates? We feel this is disgraceful.’

Things we take for granted

DSCF6685Some of you may remember my posts on Cambodia. But those of you who don’t or who didn’t read them the first time around, here are the links.
I am returning to Siem Reap on March 15th. To say I am excited is an understatement. I shall be visiting the Childrens Sanctuary and taking what summer clothes I can to help them out there.
Clothes are always needed. Children grow so fast and money is limited. Although the Sanctuary receives donations and sponsorship, there are always things needed. Sadly there will always be children needing help in Cambodia.
I will have limited space but am happy to take anything that you can offer.
Summer clothes are what is needed. Winter clothing is no good there as it is always hot. Even during the rainy season it is hot.
Please contact me if you have anything you can offer. You can email me at


The Call of the Gecko

At eight a.m. I walked out of the apartment where I am staying into a sudden blast of hot air, smoke and the strong smell of frying pork. It is rush hour. I manage to hail a local tuk tuk driver and ask him to take me to the children’s hospital. He looks at me blankly. I fumble around in my bag to find the scrap of paper with the hospital logo printed on it. Meanwhile the sounds of construction pound around me making my head throb. Everywhere I look new buildings are shooting up and there is no rest from the noise, the dust, and the shouts of the builders. They work all week from 7 in the morning until 6 at night.

The local builders smile and salute me
There is no weekend breaks. Dust flies into my eyes and I feel myself becoming irritated with myself for not being more organised with my travel arrangements. I didn’t sleep well the night before. The temperature in my room all night had been 34c and the humidly was about 80%. The only air conditioning I had was a ceiling fan which is not very efficient. To top it all a gecko (lizard) kept waking me up with its call. The people here are very superstitious about geckos. Old people believe that having a gecko inside the house is lucky. They believe that geckos are relations that have died and been reborn to look after their children but if you hear a gecko cry four times in a row it means something bad will happen in the family, possibly death. Listen to the gecko cry here. Annoying isn’t it 🙂
I’m feeling exhausted and the day has barely begun. I feel a headache looming and realise I have no painkillers on me plus I have forgotten my umbrella. I couldn’t be more disorganised if I tried. It is the rainy season and the last thing I need is to be caught out yet again. I have already been caught in two downpours. I never learn.
‘You want Provincial hospital,’ the tuk tuk driver asks.
‘No, I want the children’s hospital,’ I say finally finding the scrap of paper I need which I thrust towards him.
Several other tuk tuk drivers are now descending on me having realised that my driver has no idea where I want to go.
‘Ah, yes. I take you,’ he says on seeing the paper.
I resist the impulse to scratch the mosquito bites that are now irritating me like mad. I am also perspiring profusely and it has only been fifteen minutes since my shower. I feel hot and the insect repellent makes me feel sticky. Dengue fever is rife in Cambodia at the moment and I am constantly advised to cover myself in repellent although I have been bitten so many times that I am beginning to think it is a total waste of time and money. If I don’t go home with dengue fever it will be nothing short of a miracle. But no matter how many bites I have or how hot it becomes there is something about Cambodia that draws me back like a magnet and I know before I even leave that I will return as soon as I can. My tuk tuk driver weaves his way in and out of the morning traffic. Cyclists cut across us and motorbikes carrying whole families shoot past us. The pungent smell of cooking spices assault me and my head seems to throb more.

‘Can we stop at a pharmacy,’ I shout above the traffic noise.
‘Yes, Mam, we do that.’
At the pharmacy I try to explain that I have a headache and need something for the tension in my neck. It is like walking into a Doctor’s dispensary. Whatever you need they have. I am offered high dose codeine for my pain. I refuse, attempting to explain I want something to ease the muscle pain. She offers me Valium and then a stronger dose of Codeine. At least I know which pharmacy to come to if I want to get high later. Again I refuse and I spot some tiger balm and attempt to explain that I want something similar to this to put on my neck. She finally gives me several cool patches to place on my neck. I ask for aspirin and end up with Advil. Still it is better than nothing. I buy a face cleanser and rush back to my tuk tuk driver. It seems in Cambodia any drug is available if you don’t mind taking the risk. I’m not sure the Advil will work but I take it anyway.
We arrive at the hospital and I am stunned to see hundreds of families with crying babies already queuing at the entrance. They stare hopefully at me as I alight from my tuk tuk and walk through the gates. Many of the children are clasping stale pieces of bread or suckling at their mother’s breasts. The security guard tells me they have been there since six am. I follow the guard to the admin office feeling hundreds of eyes on me. We pass a makeshift ward, a play area which has quickly been transformed. Mattresses cover the floor and men and women lay quietly on them. These patients have been moved to make space for a dengue Fever ward. The rainy season has caused a large outbreak of the fever and already Cambodia has reported 4,434 dengue fever cases in the first five months of this year. From January to May 2012, the disease killed 21 children. In adults the fever is uncomfortable but not fatal but in young children, especially those already malnourished the fever can be fatal.
The admin lady tells me she will take me to the CB offices. I have no idea what CB is.
I am struggling to control my annoyance at the organisation of these people. I have been here almost ten days and still they have not decided what is it they want me to do. It is now considered that CBHEP (Capacity Building and Health Education Program) has greater need of me. As time goes on I am beginning to understand that organisation is not the Cambodian people’s best quality. At least it is lovely and cool here though and I am grateful for that.
In the offices of CBHEP an Italian volunteer bombards me with information that I feel my head spin even more.
‘Do not worry if everything seems confusing, there is plenty of time,’ he tells me. ‘In the meantime can you please work on our nutritional programme and update another document on CB?’
I fight back the urge to tell him that in fact there isn’t plenty of time and that ten days have already been wasted. Although I did manage a wonderful trip to Battembang, so their loss was my gain. Instead I return his grin and allow myself to be given another visit of the hospital and assure them the work will be done that afternoon. I leave and walk to The Peace Café which is becoming my favourite place to rest. They offer cooking lessons in Khmer and I begin to wonder if I have time to do this. I check my dollars while drinking my peanut butter yum yum. I cannot recommend this café enough. If you ever visit Siem Reap be sure to look them up. They also hold yoga and meditation classes. The temptation to attend one of these has been overwhelming but there is so much to do here that it is impossible to fit everything in. Do visit here for a drink I can assure you that you will not regret it.
With my friend Sochenda at the peace cafe

Annoyingly I find that one twenty-dollar bill has a small tear in it. Here in Cambodia no shop or restaurant will accept a note with even a small rip in it. I now have to hope that I can maybe get the guy at the local supermarket to take it. So far he has been very good with me and has offered to change a few torn ones for me. But I’m aware there is a limit to how often I can ask.
My local supermarket. Two mins from the apartment

I have managed to form a good relationship now with a tuk tuk driver who works outside the apartment where I am staying with my stepson. I call him from my Cambodian mobile and ask if he can take me to a second-hand bookshop and then onto Mekong quilts. Someone had recommended the quilt shop to me when I was in Battembang and I decide I will visit there first and then go home to work on the documents. I’m thrilled I did. What a fabulous place.
The quilts

My daughter in law phones and tells me she has booked me into the hairdressers for the next day. I am to have my hair straightened. I have always wanted this done in England but it was always far too expensive. The excitement of finally having some work to do coupled with the anticipation of visiting Mekong quilts and having my hair done, quickly wakes me up. In irritation I had felt with the hospital staff quickly passes.
There is no doubt about it. I love this country called Cambodia.

The Peace Cafe
Mekong Quilts
Angkor hospital for children

A humbling experience

The highlight of my trip to Siem Reap in Cambodia was the chance to visit Pesai, the little girl I sponsored shortly after my first visit here. I only vaguely remembered her from my last trip. My decision to sponsor her came from seeing her photo and reading her background information. My decision to sponsor from this orphanage, The children’s Sanctuary, came from my contact with Dr Andrew Clift and his wife Dawn Cornish. An Australian couple who are doing marvellous work in Cambodia. You can read more about them in a previous post. There are many orphanages in Cambodia but one needs to be very careful. If you wish to visit an orphanage when visiting the country do check it out as much as possible first. The Cambodian people are lovely but there are many dishonest people here too who would gladly take your money.
I never imagined I would be nervous at meeting Pesai again but nervous I was.
Before leaving for Cambodia I had spent many weekends shopping for presents to take to the Children’s Sanctuary with me. With a suitcase full of stickers and colouring books as well as pencils and spinning tops off I went. I had also bought dresses for Pesai as well as a bag and a doll. These were to be her special gifts from me and I was very excited to give them to her.
When the day came to visit I phoned my friend Sochenda who works there. Sochenda and I had become good friends since my last visit. I knew I would never find my own way there and the tuk tuk driver seemed to have no idea. I handed him the phone and Sochenda gave directions. Soon after negotiating a price we were on our way to the Sanctuary. Here is a picture of Sochenda I had been disturbed by the news of the hand foot and mouth outbreak which had already claimed the lives of many children and of course there was also the threat of Dengue fever. I was thrilled I was still allowed to visit. As my tuk tuk pulled up the children ran to greet me. They knew I had gifts. At the front was Pesai who was smiling widely at me. The children were so excited by my bags that I had to give them their gifts immediately. Pesai’s face lit up on seeing the doll and she held it close for the rest of the afternoon.

Pesai on the right and you can just see her doll
The staff were keen for her to have photos taken with me and she seemed just as pleased to have them taken too, even putting her arms around me.
It is very humbling to do something so simple to help someone else. Pesai has no family. Although all the children will go to school the sanctuary depends heavily on donations and sponsorship. Dawn is happy to discuss sponsorship with anyone and you don’t have to donate a fortune either.
It was an exciting visit for one of the other children was having a birthday party so I joined in the fun and celebrations.
Most of the children in the Sanctuary are well but there are some that aren’t. Like one boy I met who has HIV and is deaf and mute. I took many photos of him as it made him happy to see them through my camera. He laughed a lot.
My happiest moments in Cambodia have been spent at the Sanctuary. I hope through my photos you can enjoy the visit too.

For more information on The Children’s Sanctuary go here and you can like their Facebook page. If you would like to help please contact Dawn Cornish through their web page or contact me by leaving a comment and I will email you back.

Funerals, Bamboo trains and flooded tuk tuks

I’m preparing for the drive back to Siem Reap today, which will take about three hours. I am very much hoping the heavy downpours will hold off until after I arrive back. Travelling anywhere in Cambodia is difficult enough but it becomes much worse when trying to drive through endless floods. It is incredibly hot with the humidity at 85% but this is not unusual in the rainy season I didn’t sleep well last night even though I am staying at the wonderful Battambang resort. I’ve not really slept well since arriving. I miss my husband and Bendy and there is so much to think about that it makes sleep difficult. As I type I can hear the sounds of funeral music. I know it is funeral music for my tuk tuk guide Dang, pointed this out to me during my trip to the bamboo train. He explained how the sound makes him feel a little frightened.
‘It can last from three days to sometimes longer and wakes you up in the mornings,’ he told me.
I found the sounds beautifully haunting and you can hear them for yourself here.
I don’t know how far away this particular funeral is that I can hear now. It sounds close but then the music always sounds near when it is in fact very far away.
I shall be sad to leave Battambang. I have had an interesting if not catastrophic visit but then it would not be typical of me if there wasn’t some catastrophes involved. My most reason catastrophe involved a bamboo train. My aim had been to visit the countryside while here. Battambang is the capital city of Battambang province in northwestern Cambodia.
Founded in the 11th century by the Khmer Empire, Battambang is well-known for being the leading rice-producing province of the country. The city is situated by the Sangkae River, a tranquil, small body of water that winds its way through Battambang Province providing its nice picturesque setting. I spent some time researching it online and read that a visit to the countryside was something not to be missed. I asked at reception and a tuk tuk driver was arranged. He arrived ten minutes early and introduced himself as Dang and spoke English with a Cambodian/North England accent. I asked him if he had been to England. He looked surprised.
‘No, but I learnt at school and from British people who come here.’
I guessed he must have spent a long time with a Northerner. I smiled and complimented him on his English.


‘I’d like to go into the country,’ I tell him.
He looks thoughtful.
‘Ah, country. You go on bamboo train?’
I had looked at the bamboo train online and thought it looked interesting if just a touch uncomfortable. I turn to the owner of the resort and ask if she can explain that I want to go into the countryside to take pictures. She understands and a long chat in Khmer ensues. Finally she says.
‘We think Bamboo train is good way to see country.’
I’ve been bamboozled. The bamboo train it is then.
‘Come on Lynda,’ smiles Dang.
So I head off for yet another experience. Although as yet I had no idea just how much of an experience it was going to be.
The Cambodian people are the friendliest I have ever met. The children call out to you as you pass by in your tuk tuk and the adults always smile at you. Most tuk tuk drivers are exceptionally helpful and friendly and many are great tour guides. Dang turned out to be one of those. He points out the river explaining that this time last year it was totally flooded.
‘Very bad,’ he smiles. ‘Now I take you to Bamboo train’

So, off I go to the train. Obviously I am expecting a train. Something similar to the train I may board back home in Oxford. How silly am I?
We arrive at the station after driving down very bumpy roads.
‘Very bumpy,’ I say. I am so innocent. I have no idea that the bumpy roads are nothing compared to the bumpy ride of the bamboo train.
Dang just smiles.
I look around for my train.
‘The train not here yet?’ I ask.
He points to what looks like a water raft.
‘Here bamboo train,’ he says gaily and another man throws a large cushion onto it for me. Oh, good heavens, they can’t possibly expect me to go on that. But, oh yes they do.
My bamboo train

Dang explains that the journey will last one hour. I try to visualise myself sitting on this train for one hour but it just doesn’t happen.
‘I come with you?’ Dang asks.
This seems a good idea. I climb onto the train, take a deep breath and off we go. I shall never complain a tuk tuk ride is bumpy again. At one point my handbag jumped up several inches and almost left the train but for Dangs quick reflexes. As I cling onto my bag and camera Dang gives me some background on the bamboo train.
The bamboo train is one of the world’s all-time classic rail journeys. The train clicks and clacks along warped, misaligned rails and bridges left by the French.
Each bamboo train – known in Khmer as a norry (nori) – consists of a 3m-long wood frame, covered lengthwise with slats made of ultra-light bamboo, that rests on two barbell-like bogies, the aft one connected by fan belts to a 6HP gasoline engine. Pile on 10 or 15 people or up to three tonnes of rice, crank it up and you can cruise along at about 15km/h to 20km. What to do when two trains going opposite directions meet. In the case of bamboo trains, the answer is simple: one car is quickly disassembled and set on the ground beside the tracks so the other can pass. The rule is that whichever car has fewer passengers has to cede priority.
I would dismally remember this on my return as a monsoon raged about us.
Once I became adjusted to the train I actually found my ride quite exhilarating. Thirty minutes later we stop at a village and climb off. It is here that I hear very loud, haunting music and ask Dang where it is coming from.
‘It is a funeral,’ he tells me and shakes his head. ‘I do not like it.’
I find the music deeply moving and he attempts to translate the words for me. We walk amongst the villagers who bombard me with gifts made from reeds. One ties a home made bracelet to my wrist.
The track

I look uncertainly up at the sky as dark clouds float dangerously towards us.
‘Do you think it will rain?’ I ask Dang.
He however does not profess to be the weather man.
‘I don’t think so but I don’t know.’ he answers.
At that moment the wind comes up so suddenly that we are almost thrown off out feet. The men in charge of my train indicate we should begin making our way back. I am relieved. I wait patiently but nervously as they prepare my train.

I am now keenly aware that I am a solo traveller and that any oncoming train will expect me to disembark, have my train removed from the rails and allow them to pass. This is fine and I am very happy to do this except as we begin our journey back the winds grow stronger and the rain begins to pelt down on me. This really could only happen to me. I quickly pull my cardigan off and try to decide which I should protect the most, myself or my camera. Dang looks at me apologetically and I smile although I feel far from happy. The wind is so fierce that I have to duck constantly to stop the overhanging branches whipping me in the face. And then horror of horrors, I see an oncoming train. I want to cry. Dang nudges me softly.
‘We need to get off train.’
The words I had dreading hearing. My slacks are now stuck to my legs and any hope I had of maintaining some kind of decorum is gone in a flash when I see my cotton top is stuck to me also. I look like an entrant for a wet t-shirt competition. Not quite how one should present oneself while in Cambodia. Within minutes my cardigan is drenched and so is my camera. I slide off the bamboo train feeling quite miserable but not as miserable as poor Dang who looks quite guilty.
‘I’m sorry Lynda,’ he says offering to hold the sopping wet camera.
We wave happily to the Chinese people who pass us on their train and climb back onto ours to continue the wet journey back.
A downpour in Cambodia

The arrival back at the station (which isn’t a station as such, more a muddy area full of motorbikes) produces such a sense of relief that I almost cry until I see how muddy it is. Visions of myself slipping and sliding to the tuk tuk torment me. I mean, why me?
Luckily Dang helps me and I make it to safety.
The station

At last, I think. We can go back to the hotel. I can dry off and have some dinner. Except… Dang’s tuk tuk is soaked and he can’t get it to start. Oh, no. I shall be stranded here forever. Okay, a bit extreme but I feel highly embarrassed dripping away in front of all these Cambodian men. They obviously take pity on me for several of them attempt to start the tuk tuk. Until finally amidst a cloud of grey smoke, it starts. I let out a long sigh and climb in.
I’m all for adventures but this is taking things too far.

Nothing goes as planned

I’m finally back in Cambodia but how long I will stay is very much unknown. Nothing in Cambodia ever goes according to plan.
The heat and smells assault your senses with such ferocity on arrival in Siem Reap (Cambodia) that it leaves you feeling quite heady.
Well, I have a headache so that’s my excuse 🙂
The combined heat and noise is quite a shock to my system after my quiet sojourning in the Cotswold countryside. Of course nothing goes according to plan in my life as most people who know me will testify.
I’m here in Siem Reap to write for the Angkor hospital for children. As of yet I have no idea what I am to be writing. In fact I am writing this in the offices of the hospital as I wait for the director of Human Resources to come and meet with me to tell me what is expected of me…
But as always I jump ahead of myself. Let’s go back to Heathrow airport, as boring as it may sound it is where my journey began.
My lovely husband Andrew took me to the airport and immediately began our problems. The lady at the desk at Singapore airlines said I couldn’t possibly fly back on the date my ticket was booked for because I would not be able to stay in Cambodia for that long. I was told in no uncertain terms that I must either change my return date or extend my visa for longer than thirty days. I was not happy to do either. I attempted to explain that I did not want to extend my visa too early. After all I had no clear idea how any of this was going to work out for me. I wasn’t keen to spend thirty pound on an extension visa that I may not use. After much discussion I changed my flight, settling for an overnight stop in Singapore on the way back. Not ideal but I didn’t want to be discussing it for the duration of the morning and it was better than extending my visa so early in my trip.
I am now glad I did for the director of human resources is now telling me that nobody had advised her that I was coming and that she needs to meet with her boss to find out what they had in mind for me to do. I am coming to understand this is very common in Asia.
I leave the cool interior of the hospital for the blinding heat of outside. Next stop to buy a fan.
I never remembered it being this hot when we were here in December but I’m being told the rainy season is when it is at its most humid. I have certainly come during the rainy season, but more of that later.
I phone Andrew and hearing his voice makes me miss him even more. ‘Make the most of your trip’ he tells me. So that is what I have been doing and will write more about it as I go on.
In the meantime here are some photos. Please leave comments as I love to hear your views.

Shopping with my daughter in law

The market

My new friend Sochenda
The hotel owner’s jeep here in Battambang, where I am staying for a few days. I got a lift into town in it to see the circus.

Coming soon. My visit to see the little girl Pesai that I sponsor in the orphanage.
Pesai and her friend. Pesai is on the right as you look at the photo.

A Cambodian catastrophe

So, it is now official that I do not save my catastrophes for home only. I also manage quite easily to have them in Cambodia too. It is typical of my luck that the loo in my en-suite bedroom got blocked. My stepson and his wife forgot to tell me to be economical with the loo roll. Those closest to me know that loo roll is my one extravagance in life (as if.) We have a problem and no plunger. I suggest asking the landlord. Down we trot only to find he has gone out. I cannot face the thought of a blocked loo all night. Travelling between bedroom and loo is where I get most of my exercise! I suggest asking at the restaurant opposite.
‘They must have to plunge a fair bit,’ I say ‘seeing as they rent out rooms too.’
James agrees but feels less inclined to walk into a restaurant and ask for a plunger. After all he does have to continue living here. However, I don’t speak Khmer. But I agree to have a go. After all I did block the toilet. I walk confidently across and into the restaurant full of dining tourists. Of course, it is at this point I very much want to walk back. How do I explain a blocked toilet in front of all these people who are happily eating? I lean across the bar in the manner of a conspirator. The waitress leans forward expectantly.
‘We have a blocked toilet,’ I whisper.
‘Oh,’ she says.
‘Do you have a plunger?’ I ask while miming the actions of plunging and not very well at that.
I can’t imagine how I look.
‘Oh yes,’ she says and rushes away to return a few minutes later with a large plunger which she diplomatically hands to me behind the counter. I feel like I’m doing a drugs deal.
I walk head held high from the bar swinging the plunger in my hand.
James thrilled that I have obtained one, agrees to do the plunging, except the plunger seems too small. Why am I not surprised? This is me this is happening to after all.
‘It doesn’t seem to have great suction. It’s too small,’ says James.
Too small? Good lord how big does it need to be?
It is then decided, by me. Who else would make such suggestions? That I should hold it over the hole and maybe this will help. James seems unconvinced but searches out some rubber gloves for me. So we try again. It looks rather like we are about to perform an operation and with James being a nurse it all seems quite apt. Still no luck but I spur James on to keep trying as a blocked loo in this heat is too unbearable to even think about. Finally, there is a loud spluttering sound and we are cleared.
I walk across the road to return the plunger to find the restaurant now has more people dining. I look around for someone to hand the plunger to but they are all busy serving. The waitress sees me and smiles. She wanders back behind the bar and holds her hand out. Cringing with embarrassment I hand the plunger across the counter, carefully avoiding the Cointreau bottle.
‘Thanks so much,’ I whisper and hurry back across the road.
Why do I feel this is one of many catastrophes I will have?

At last… ‘Coconuts and Wonderbras’

At last! I am so excited and thrilled to tell you that ‘Coconuts and Wonderbras’ will be released onto Kindle on July 1st. Here’s the blurb.

‘Literary agent Libby Holmes is desperate for her boyfriend, Toby, to propose to her and will do anything for him and if that means dieting for England then she’ll have a go. However, when Libby’s boss introduces her to her new client, Alex Bryant, her life is turned upside down. Alex Bryant, ex-SAS officer and British hero, insists Libby accompany him to Cambodia for a book fair. What she hadn’t bargained for was a country in revolt. Libby finds herself in the middle of an uprising with only Alex Bryant to protect her, that is, until Toby flies out to win back her affections. Come with Libby on her romantic comedy adventure to see if love blossoms in the warm Cambodian sunshine or, if in the heat of the day, emotions get just too hot to handle.’

A laugh-out-loud romantic comedy
Unputdownable from beginning to end
A light, fun, feel-good read

I’m thrilled with the cover. Let me know what you think. A lovely lady named Katie Eder did it. If you like her artwork, you can see more on her web page

I couldn’t possibly let such an exciting day go by without a little competition could I? 🙂
In the novel, Libby, the protagonist finds her Wonderbra truly does become the eighth wonder of the world.
To win a pre-launch signed copy of the paperback, go to ‘Coconuts and Wonderbras’ launch and competition page. There is a link at the top of this page. Send me your own stories of how a piece of your underwear has been used for a purpose other than what it was meant for. I will put all entries into a draw to be pulled on the 1st September, in time for the September 2012 launch of the paperback.

A little girl named Pesai

I have so many things to put on this blog. I just wish there was as many hours as there are ideas and stories. There is nothing better than sharing with others.
My most exciting news I have been saving for this very post. Although more fun things to follow. I always intend to post more regularly but it never happens. So, when something exciting and lovely happens I just want to share with all my lovely Blogger friends.
Two weeks ago I got notification that I have successfully sponsored little Pesai at the Children’s Sanctuary in Siem Reap, in Cambodia. You may also remember that I am returning to Siem Reap in a matter of weeks to work at the Angkor hospital for Children and while there I will return to the orphanage. I have already packed loads of goodies to take with me. Spinning tops and books and lots more. I am so excited.
Pesai, and you can see her pictured here, sings very loudly I am told. I’m not alone in that then 🙂 I have controlled myself with the pictures you will be glad to hear.
Pesai was found with her sister living with their elderly Grandparents. Her Grandmother was dying and her Grandfather was unable to care for them all. Pesai’s father fled to Thailand when she was an infant and her mother, a drug user, was no longer able to keep her children. She abandoned Pisey when she was one year old. Pisey has been integrated into CSI’s care since 2008. She has been commencing her pre-school at Future Bright International School.
The stories are not much different for all the children at the Sanctuary. Some children still need sponsoring and if you can help please do contact the sanctuary. You can make such a difference to a child’s life. You don’t have to sponsor to make a difference. A donation is always gratefully received. I hope to be arranging a fun fund raiser when I return. Very much a blogging affair, so do join in when I do.
You can learn more about the children and the Sanctuary here.

Making a difference

Some time ago I wrote a small piece on the Orphanage I visited in Cambodia. It was very short and I had not made contact with the founders. Two marvellous people named Doctor Andrew Clift and Dawn Cornish. I since have. This was their vision and my extraordinary luck to have found them and the Children’s Sanctuary. Below is the article I felt privileged to write. Currently live on NL Aid news agency and to be published elsewhere in the coming months.

Making a difference

A lovely lady who introduced herself as Sochenda Kann greeted me. I was hot and weary after having been unwell with food poisoning a few days before. I had been in Cambodia for four days. Only a week before I had been freezing in England without the vaguest idea what Cambodia would be like. I could never have imagined that this country would steal my heart completely and that the children of Cambodia would become extremely important to me. As I opened the gate to shake Sochenda’s hand I had no idea that this visit would change my life.

Cambodia has a way of reaching your heart in a way that no other country seems to. At least that has been my experience. I had no idea what to expect but what I hadn’t expected was the smiling people that I met there. I had been home no less than two weeks before I made arrangements to return. It is not often we get an opportunity to make a difference. This was mine and it can be yours too. I hope after reading this you will also decide to do something meaningful for the people of Cambodia from your own home.

I am fortunate enough to know people who are attempting to make a difference in Cambodia and it has given my husband and I the opportunity to see things we may not normally see. One of these people is my stepson, James, who works in the emergency department of the Provincial Hospital in Siem Reap as well as teaching and training there. On our arrival last December my daughter in law asked if I would like to visit an Orphanage where a friend was a member of staff. I immediately said yes. The following day we travelled in the tuk tuk for my first visit. I had stupidly visualised the Orphanage as being huge and rather monolithic, like something out of Jane Eyre. I couldn’t have been more wrong. After travelling along a very bumpy track and a bumpy track in a tuk tuk is no fun let me tell you. I certainly lost a fair amount of my diet coke on the way, we pulled up outside a traditional Cambodian house that was as far removed from Jane Eyre as one could get.

‘Hello,’ welcomed Sochenda in her broken English. ‘Thank you so much for visiting.’

The children

I removed my shoes before entering the house and had just got them off when the children ran to greet me. I followed them inside where they pulled me to their books and toys. Some were quite shy and just watched me, while others were keen to go outside and play ball. I sat for a short time with the youngest baby there and then saw a child who was clearly distressed and very unwell. If anything brought my life into perspective this child did. Her skin was blue and her eyes sunken. This distressed me so much that I felt an urgent need to run from this situation that I could do nothing about. I forced back my own tears and asked my daughter in law what was wrong with the baby. With Sochanda’s help, she told me that Leangim, normally called Gem, was abandoned by her mother. Her father is unknown.


A midwife who helped Gem’s mum to give birth took pity on her and decided to adopt her. Unfortunately, eight months later Gem became really sick and the midwife and her husband brought her to Kuntha Bopha Hospital to get medical treatment. The doctor’s found she had a serious heart defect and needed an operation which could not be done in Cambodia. With hope and love for Gem, the midwife sought help from any NGOs that could save her life. She found the Children’s Sanctuary.
For the first time in my life I felt so helpless. Here was a child so very sick and there was nothing I could do.
A week later I returned with my husband. No sooner had we stepped into the courtyard, then children began shouting hello to us from their classroom high up on the balcony of the house which is located alongside the Siem Reap River. I have never felt as welcome as I did that day and I only wish I could have been armed with more than just biscuits. The children had just started their lessons. They sat quietly listening to their teacher while occasionally posing for me when they realised the camera was on them. I had the pleasure of playing with the children on my first visit and reading to them from the collection of donated books on the shelves. This time I sat in on their class and again I could not resist photographing their happy faces while wondering how I could contribute to their lives. I asked how Gem was and she was brought out looking a lot better than on my previous visit, but still very sick.

Dawn and Andrew

Cambodia is a poverty-stricken country and everywhere you look there is malnutrition. Many of the children here originate from impoverished rural villages and most children coming to the Sanctuary are orphans or have been abandoned by their families. When visiting the sanctuary it is almost impossible not to fall in love with the children. I pointed my camera again and Srey Roat Heng smiled proudly at the lens.

Srey Roat
Srey Roat

‘We found in her mother’s lap whilst she was begging beneath the scorching summer sun. She was only three months old.’ Sochenda told me.

‘Her mother was hungry and her breast milk was diminishing fast. She could not afford infant formula, had no access to clean drinking water and no facilities to keep bottles clean. Srey Roat and her mother now live with us and for the first time in her life, mother Mao is receiving a regular income for her work as an assistant at The Children’s Sanctuary.

It is thanks to an Australian couple, Dawn Cornish and her husband Doctor Andrew Clift that the vision of a home for abandoned children was realised. I contacted Andrew on my return home and he quickly put me in touch with Dawn. Andrew Clift visited Cambodia in 2006. The couple had already worked with HIV infected orphans in Africa and Thailand. They decided that Cambodia was one of the neediest countries they had seen. Following their vision, Dawn set off establish The Children’s Sanctuary in Siem Reap the following year. Four years later I would visit and feel an overwhelming need to meet Dawn and Andrew who share their life with the first child who came to the orphanage and whom they adopted. Dawn has worked in nursing and medical recruitment and management and has studied international and community development. She has worked overseas particularly with AIDS orphans in Asia. Andrew Clift, meanwhile, has worked in ten countries for government, non-government and United Nations organisations. His work in remote Australian communities, five years’ work with orphaned and abandoned children, as well as hospital and project management, assists his CSI work in Cambodia.
Within a month of Dawn returning to Cambodia the venue for the orphanage had been found and renovations took place. Their first baby arrived weighing just 2.2kg. Shortly after, others followed. Abandoned babies were taken in, as well as others with cerebral palsy, HIV and epilepsy. Dr Andrew Clift described the following two years as a ‘Big adventure’

‘Many of the children in the orphanage originate from impoverished rural villages where their families live in conditions of extreme deprivation,’ Dawn explained.

‘Most of these children are malnourished, many severely, and significant proportions have other illnesses, most commonly infectious diseases.’

Despite significant improvements since the end of recent conflicts, Cambodia still remains one of the world’s most impoverished countries. Most families survive on less than one dollar a day and children are the ones most affected by the poverty. The under-five mortality rates remain very high. Half of all Cambodian children suffer from malnutrition. Less than half will complete primary school.


When a child is taken into care at the sanctuary, the main objective is to address any health issues. The children are cared for by the Sanctuary nannies and what wonderful people they are. All are trained in first aid and health care with emphasis upon hygiene. A doctor and nurse visit the children on a regular basis to check on the children’s health and progress if they are on treatment. Full dental care is also provided for all children. But, as always, money is a problem. The Orphanage depends solely on donations and sponsorship. I met the staff first hand and was so impressed. It was hard to control my emotions in the face of such caring dedication. Since its establishment Dawn Cornish has welcomed sixteen children into The Children’s Sanctuary in Siem Reap but she has also supported many children in a local village school and assisted people who have needed lifesaving operations. Her husband, Andrew Clift, has supported this venture by working in outback Australian and Pacific hospitals. One person helped by The Sanctuary is Srey Cheak, who has thalassemia, an inherited blood disorder requiring regular blood transfusions. She is being assisted by The Children’s Sanctuary for her medical treatment.

A few days before writing this article I emailed Sochenda for some background on the children. I was thrilled to read that thanks to the efforts of Dawn and Andrew, Gem underwent major cardio-vascular surgery at the Angkor Hospital for Children on Friday, 23rd March 2012 under the care of the visiting Singaporean cardio-thoracic team. The surgery was a success, which means Gem’s symptoms should dramatically improve and her life expectancy extended. Gem is due another operation in December this year and hopefully this will also be successful.

On my journey back I realised that I could help in more ways than I had at first imagined. I could write about the sanctuary and bring attention to its needs. For a small amount each month I could sponsor a child there.

The Children’s Sanctuary Incorporated (CSI) strongly believes the best place for a child is within his or her own community. It works together with families and single mothers who are wishing to relinquish their child due to their circumstances, and find solutions to avoid separation. The children, who are a part of the CSI family, are those who have nowhere else to go. They are either true orphans, have been abandoned, are seriously ill, or were living in a high-risk environment. The children under CSI’s care receive a secure and loving home, a balanced diet, high-standard health care, private education supplementary classes and weekly outings

I hope I have encouraged you to do something to help. I will be returning to Cambodia in July to work as a volunteer in the hospital where Gem had her operation. From my photos you can see how happy the children are. During our visit we saw the children receive gifts for their outstanding work in the classroom for the past year. Visitors are very welcome at the Sanctuary provided prior arrangement is made and you can help with the lessons if you wish.
My time spent with the children was very humbling and visiting the sanctuary certainly puts things into perspective. When it is time to climb back into the tuk tuk, both the staff and children come to wave goodbye. It is a visit I shall not forget.You can support the sanctuary on Facebook. For information on sponsoring please visit the sanctuary at

Please help and make a difference.

Lynda Renham-Cook is associate editor of the scavenger.

Living my life to the full!

I received an award from a blogger the other day and it came on a day that I was really thinking through my life. I had been pensive and a little melancholy for a few days. This was totally unlike me and not fitting with my fun personality. I began to wonder do I need anti-depressants or something. It didn’t take long for me to realise this had coincided with my birthday. I was a year older and just a bit older than I wanted to be. For the first time in my life I went into an age panic. I thought of all the things I wanted to do and felt an overwhelming fear that I wouldn’t get everything done. A few days later I gave myself a shake and made a firm decision that from this point onwards I would only do things I wanted to do. I would not let anything stop me and I would not say no to anything I wanted to do and I also would not let age be an obstacle to something that appealed to me. I was and am determined to get the most out of my life. I am not afraid of failure anymore. So with these thoughts in my mind I looked at what I wanted to do. The first thing was to get down to the allotment and plant as much as possible there. I have always wanted to be self-sufficient and grow my own food. So, if you live near, be prepared to be given lots of fresh fruit and veg. I have no ambitions to jump from a plane or go kayaking. I have flown many times in a microlight with Andrew and that was adventure in the air for me and I now want to go up in a helicopter and hot air balloon. If anyone can offer either do let me know  I want to travel more. Having already spent a lot of my life in the Middle East I very much want to return to both Egypt and Israel. Meanwhile my dream to visit Cambodia has materialised. I am returning soon for a long visit and hope while there to sponsor a child at the Orphanage I visited. Not having children of my own this seems an ideal way to give someone else the future I could not give to a child of my own. I am already fulfilling a dream to help this country and am grateful to have been given the chance. I will continue writing as this is my main love. I will visit China and Vietnam hopefully in the next five years. I want to finally finish a cross stitch pattern. I want to take better photographs and spend more time with friends. I am already making more time to go shopping with girlfriends. It is probably time to take art classes, something I have always wanted to do and maybe even horse riding lessons again. Whatever it is, if I fancy it, I shall do it. If I fail, so what? At least I tried.
So if I seem a little busy, it is because I truly am trying to live my life to the full and part of that is blogging where I have made some wonderful and very sincere friends. One of them is Jacqueline who gave me this lovely award for which I am thrilled, as always to receive. Jacqueline writes a very human and loving blog, do drop over and see her. The Sunshine award, really did come on a day when I needed some sunshine

The Sunshine Award asks me to answer some questions, so here we go….

Favourite Colour:
I don’t think I have a favourite colour. I’ll go for ‘sky blue pink’ and keep my options open.

Favourite Animal:
Cats, without doubt. I love them all. I would have a houseful if Andrew allowed me.

Favourite Number:
7 and I have no idea why.

Favourite Non-Alcoholic Drink:

Ginger Beer

Facebook or Twitter:
Facebook, I think although of late I have become a little addicted to Twitter. I will always prefer Facebook. So many great friends to see on there.

My Passion:
Writing, followed by music. They go together for me.

Favourite pattern:
Jacqueline gave me the idea for this. After seeing her answer I thought of Andrew’s ancestral tartan (from his mother’s side) Mackay tartan. Here it is.

Favourite day of the week:
Sunday. A time to be together.

Favourite Flower:

I will pass the Sunshine Award on to the following blogs and I am aware that some of you may have received this already, but I wanted to let you know that your blogs bring sunshine into my life:

Kew Smith for her great blog ‘Random reasoning’

Fellow author Jane Lovering, who never fails to make me laugh