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Comedy critic Kate Copstick’s extreme difficulties with trying to be charitable

Mama Biashara’s Kate Copstick at a happier time in Kenya

Mama Biashara’s Kate Copstick in happier times back in Kenya

Comedy critic Kate Copstickas mentioned in this blog yesterday – has been in Kenya for her charity Mama Biashara,

No-one working for Mama Biashara is paid. It survives solely on donations and on sales at the Mama Biashara shop in Shepherd’s Bush, London.

Copstick covers none of her own expenses and 100% of all money collected is spent on the charity’s work. She brings goods to sell in the shop back from Kenya (at her own cost).

Things do not always go smoothly. These are extracts from her diary this week.


BA is on time and I have slept the entire journey. With hope in my heart I text Benson in Nairobi for news of my precious cargo and its arrival in London. Air France offloaded it, I am told. Blah blah Kenya Airways blah blah strike blah blah tonight confirmed blah blah.


No sign of cargo.

Les The Cargo at Heathrow seems less than interested in letting me know what the fuck is going on and Benson The Cargo in Nairobi is just getting teary because nothing is his fault.

At various times over a very stressed day my cargo is reported to be:

a) still in Nairobi

b) en route to Paris

c) en route to Amsterdam

d) being trucked from Amsterdam to London.

Les announces he is closing at 3.30pm on Friday and if the cargo doesn’t come in today then I will not get it till Monday. I send off emails to Air France, KLM (who have somehow managed to figure in the equation) and get platitudinous drivel back. A threat of taking my business elsewhere is going to frighten no one as we are such small fry.

Today is not a good day.

And, as it wears on and nothing arrives, Neil The Man in Les The Cargo’s office displays all the people skills of Donald Trump in making me feel better about this disaster.


Email from Neil: Cargo arriving at 7.40am.

Leaving them plenty time to collect and deliver before 3.30pm.

But, because nothing was confirmed early enough, they are not going to collect and I will have to go to Heathrow Cargo Terminal myself. Great.

Luckily for Mama Biashara and all who sail in her, the absolutely wonderful Helen Cox comes to the rescue with the FinMobile – the van in which she transports her lovely hubby Fin and his wheels.

Not looking forward to this at all. Have cracked and taken a magic pill as I quite honestly could not see my way through all this without it.

Note to Shoppers: attempts to find ANY fault with ANY of the wonderful stuff I am bringing back to the shop this afternoon will be met with what I believe they call ‘extreme prejudice’.

I am so far past taking a joke that all my punchlines are now literal.

(There may be some mention of all this in the upcoming weekly Grouchy Club Podcast with Copstick and me. There is a donations page for Mama Biashara HERE.)

The Mama Biashara shop in London’s Shepherd’s Bush

The Mama Biashara shop in London’s Shepherd’s Bush

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Toilet seats and the difference in the collapse of British & Russian empires

A bottom-shaped toilet seat as it was meant to be

A toilet seat as it was meant to be…

I flew to Kiev yesterday. I went to the toilet first.

They have tried hard at London’s Gatwick Airport.

There is a new ‘super-loo’.

The holes in the toilet seats are rectangular.

I checked my bottom before and after using one. My bottom is not rectangular. I was unable to check other people’s bottoms. But I suspect the design of these new ‘super’ toilet seats is a triumph of design over practicality.

A triumph of good intentions over actual effectiveness.

Some seats in the Departure Lounge at Gatwick have little flat surfaces next to them with plug sockets and USB ports so you can use and charge your computers and mobile phones.

All the sockets and USB ports had been switched off.

A triumph of good intentions over actual effectiveness.

Ukraine International Airlines were very attentive on the flight to Kiev. All the pilot and cabin announcements were, of course, in both Ukrainian… and in English as, I think, the rules say they have to be. At least, I think they were in English.

But the English was around 97% totally incomprehensible. It was like audio origami. I basically only knew it was English because of the polite addition of clear Thankyous at the end of sentences.

A triumph of good intentions over actual effectiveness.

A street in Kiev at 9.40am this morning

A central street in Kiev – or Kyiv –  at 9.40am this morning

So now I am in Kiev.

In an enlightening conversation last night, a local was telling me how the corruption system works.

It is a triumph of actual effectiveness over good intentions.

I say I am in Kiev… but actually I am in Kyiv. Because ‘Kiev’ was the Russian-approved Western spelling used in the Soviet era. Now Ukraine is independent. So now it is written as ‘Kyiv’.

As with all ex-Soviet states, there was and is a problem with the Russians.

I remember a historian (not British born) telling me in the 1990s what he thought was the difference between the collapse of the British Empire and the collapse of the Soviet Empire.

I do not know if he is right or wrong, but it is an interesting viewpoint.

The way he saw it, the British had conquered an empire but had, by-and-large, not fully integrated themselves within the local community, particularly in India.

In the Raj, they tended to live in British communities, go to British clubs and continue living their British lives separate from the local communities. Britain was always seen as their home country. They lived consciously as ex-pats.

With the Soviet Empire, the Russians, to a greater extent, colonised each country and moved their families and lives lock, stock and family barrel into them because they, perhaps, felt that all these other countries really were part of one great Socialist country.

When India got independence, by and large, most British families simply upped-sticks and left, mostly going back to their ‘home’ country – the UK.

But, when the Soviet Empire collapsed and satellite countries got independence, the Russian populations within those countries had psychologically, economically and physically integrated their families’ lives within the communities. They had no actual close family ties back in Russia. They were not expats living away from mother Russia. They were Russians who felt fully part of the satellite countries.

For example, in Uzbekistan, they were not Uzbeks yet, in Russia, they were not ‘real’ Russians. They had nowhere to ‘go home’ to. These were Russians who had been in Uzbekistan for generations and were now left stranded in what had been their home country and was now a foreign country.

Same thing in the Ukraine… exacerbated by a history of invasions over the centuries.

There is a heavy Russian presence in the east and in the south of modern, independent Ukraine. According to a 2001 census, 67.5 percent of the population declared Ukrainian as their ‘native’ language and 29.6 percent declared Russian.

They considered Russian their ‘native’ language.

Almost 30% of the country.

Almost all in the east and south.

This is not good.

Some people talk of splitting the country.

Mostly the Russians in the Ukraine. And the Russians in the Kremlin.

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