Tuesday, 29 December 2015


So the following morning as early as we could make it, Haddy, three noisy and excited girls and me got a taxi to Bakau.
The African Village Hotel is shut and so we won’t be going there, so it looks very much like a trip to Ocean Bay is in order ?
Wouldn’t you know it, they’re shut too as they are renovating a few bits including the swimming pool.
Ok, where next ?
Red Croc’ is suggested by the Ocean Bay staff so we might as well have a try since we’re in the vicinity.
Yaay !!!
They’re going to charge us the same as Ocean Bay would, and what’s more they’ll supply dinner.
They only have about twenty guests at the present moment because one lot has just flown back and they’re not expecting anybody else until a lot later tonight and we’ll be gone by then so it looks like we’ve got the complete pool area to ourselves.
Nice one.
At least the girls won’t get jostled while they’re in the water and they can all splash about to their hearts content.
Hopefully it’s going to be a nice relaxing day ?

So we’ve told Mariama, Jalika and Ida they can have about an hour in the pool and then we’ll have lunch, after lunch they can mess about for an hour while their lunch goes down and then they can go back in the pool until it’s time for us to go.
It sounds about right.
I can’t see them wanting to get out because when you put the three of them next to water then they do tend to become water babies for the duration, but we’ll see ?
They know the score anyway, they’ve been doing it for long enough now.

Here we go… 

Right... Let's go...

Jalika in the blow-up dinghy

Mariama relaxing
Ida has now got the dinghy
Jalika with the 'surf-dinghy'

And finally I'm in...

The lads are doing a bit of tree lopping...

Haddy relaxing

Awa visiting

Right. We've ordered lunch so where is it ?


Ok, let's eat...

Right, well that will give you some sort of idea...
And just before we ordered, big sister Awa who is currently part-timing at Ocean Bay as opposed to her full time post decides to walk up the road and pay us a visit.
She's taken some time out to get one of her relatives shops up and running.
It's a dress shop with material from the USA, Senegal and anywhere else she can get the fabrics from and she seems to be doing quite well at it.
I can see her finishing at Ocean Bay if it carries on being as successful as it seems to be at the moment.
Oh, and food was chicken, chips and salad x4 and Nasi Goreng x1 just in case you were wondering what the food was ?

After lunch we went for an exploring session as we’ve never been here before.

And that's why it's called 'Red Croc'
It’s definitely quite a nice place to relax in that it’s got a few hotel businesses that you don’t usually see such as the ‘Holistic’ studio, and the beach itself is quite near to the poolside area. 

I don’t know what it’s going to be like when it’s chock-full of guests but there seems to be enough space to accommodate them.

Grow your own fruit...

Right, dinner’s gone down so it’s back in the pool…

You're supposed to stay on it, not fall off it...

Time to go...
And that was our first trip to Red Croc’.
We left at about four-thirty after doing what we’d hoped to do.
We’d had a very relaxing day out but then when you get back you realise that isn’t going to last because everybody wants to know where you’ve been even though they’d all been told and we’d got a compound full including Sainabou and Adama.

Oh well, looks like it's time for a bit of music and a beer ?
And we've definitely got another dancer in the family...


Tuesday, 22 December 2015


It had taken a fair bit of work during the week but Haddy had finally managed to get most of the clothes we’d sent out given away to those she felt had needed them.
The only things left now were everything we’d sent out for our lot and those that were going to Killy, which would be going at some time the following week along with whoever was free on the day ?
So, we get to Saturday having warned Ida’s family that at some time in the morning she’ll be required for a ‘fitting’ session and probably a few photos as well ?
After all, if you’re going to act like a rock band then you may as well dress the part…

We’d managed to keep Mariama and Jalika away from anything that they felt that they might want and also managed to persuade them that the clothes we were giving away weren’t actually for them, which was more difficult than it sounds as both of them, but Mariama in particular, were quite vociferous on the ‘I like this so I want to keep it’, front.
But finally Ida had appeared and so we opened the last bag and started handing out those things we’d put by and bought for them.
Ok girls, use the spare shop as a changing room and let’s see what you look like shall we while I go and get all your instruments because you might as well have a few ‘props’ if we’re going to be taking photos ?
So with Hassanatou acting as Chief Wrangler to actually get them doing it with a sense of purpose, Haddy and I waited with bated breath…
Although with the words that we were hearing through the walls, maybe Chief Mangler is a better description of Hassa’s job ?

Apart from the things that Haddy and I had managed to get from some of our friends with daughters the same age-ish, we’d scoured the charity shops back in the UK for things in good and reasonable condition that would look appropriate, and if we hadn’t managed to find anything suitable then we’d look in the cheaper younger fashion outlets.
T-shirts had been a particular bugbear as although we could always find something that fitted Mariama and Ida, Jalika being that much smaller was very difficult to find things for, especially if we wanted three matching shirts.
It had been difficult but I think we finally managed it ?
It would seem that Medium, Large and Obese are the three current UK t-shirt sizes in shops, even for teenage girls...
The ‘Rock Band’ t-shirts had been the biggest challenge as it seemed nobody did ‘Small’ and if they did it was closer to medium as far as size went, but finally we’d cracked it at Primark of all places and although the girls wouldn’t have a clue who the band were, as they weren’t played on Gambian radio, at least they could listen to the three albums I had on the computer just to check them out.
Right… Come on kids, let’s be seeing you…
Good God !!!
It’s been said sometimes that ‘clothes maketh the man’ (or woman) but nothing had prepared us for what came out of that room.
If they had wanted to be a band then they needed to feel like one and getting the right clothes puts you some distance toward achieving your objective.
Three young girls had walked up those steps to change clothes but a band had walked back out with all their own personalities encapsulated in what they were wearing.
Talk about a transformation.
Right, grab your camera darling and let’s get some pic’s…

The Band and Management...

Somebody is not taking this seriously...

'Rhythms Of The World' t-shirts

I spy with my little eye...

The Band, the 'Drum Roadie' and the 'Management'

Between four of us we managed to fire off about three hundred and fifty photos that morning.
Hassanatou was using her 'phone and Awa, Haddy and I were using cameras and nobody had any inkling as to whether any of them were going to be of any use as none of us are professional photographers, but you always hope that you get the one picture that encapsulates what the subject is all about, whether at weddings, parties or indeed for any subject(s) that you are taking.
One thing we did get were a few examples of Jalika's 'subversive' humour when she is being photographed, and there are two examples above.
Whilst it is true to say that she's a lot quieter than Mariama and thinks before she speaks, when she's sure of her ground then her irrepressible and totally subversive humour surfaces and it certainly did that morning.
Where she gets it from nobody knows, but it's there.
So did we get the 'iconic' shot ?
Well this is the one that's now on their t-shirts...

So yeah...
I think maybe we did.

Which of course brings up the obvious question that followed...
'Uncle Chris... Who are The Ramones ?'
'They're an American punk band.  There's three albums on the computer if you want a listen. They're all dead now, the last survivor was the drummer and he died recently of cancer... Very sad'.
'Ok, can we listen now ?'
'Yeah, go on, the computer is in Mum's bedroom, just plug it in and wait a couple of minutes. You know which bit to press for the music, click on artists if it's not on that and then type in Ramones at the top. You've nicked it often enough to know...'
'Thank you' (in chorus) and off they went...
Half an hour later they were back.
'Uncle Chris it's not like the music that we know...'
'Is it a bit fast ?'
'Very... But we like the first track'
'Which is ?'
'Blits something Bop...'
'Blitzkrieg Bop.  Well what I suggest is that you go back to that track and give it a good listen then work out how you can play it with what you've got if you want to ?  Don't try and copy it, do your own thing with it and make it yours. Make it more African...'
Which they promptly did and were back in under an hour with a completely re-written song.
Jesus !
What have they done to it. Where did this come from ?
This isn't a punk track anymore, this is an out and out protest song, and by the look of the words that they'd written out was directed totally toward the UK government and the European Union...
'We liked the beginning, is it alright ?'
'Yeah... It's fine, good even. Want to give it a try singing it ?'
'Not yet, but we think the words are right'.
'I suggest you change one word, change racists to apartheid, it's six of one and half a dozen of the other but I think that's what you are trying to say.  You know what apartheid means ?'
'It's when they won't let black people have rights'
'Well done, that'll do...  Yeah, just change the one word and it's there... You've got it, well done'.
Well that was totally unexpected, I hadn't expected that at all.
Later on that afternoon I found out why they'd re-written it as they did ?
Three lads whom they'd known, one of whom, Jally Backary, who lived over the road in the same compound as Ida and was one of our 'extended' family, and the other two from fifty yards down the road, had decided to go 'the back way' and do the migrant route over the Mediterranean to try and get to Europe.
Jally had made it and got to Italy but the two brothers had perished when their boat had capsized and they'd drowned...
The news had come through about three weeks previously and so the girls had taken the 'Hey Ho Let's Go' intro' and used it to comment upon what they knew...
Jesus !  This ain't good...
I'd thought he was still working away from home which is why we hadn't seen him ?
But no, he'd taken his life into his own hands and gone 'The Back Way' as the route is known over here, and there were a lot more thinking of trying to do it.
Has it really got that bad ?
Talking to people locally we found out that it had.
Nobody could get jobs and the Gambian economy had dropped down a big hole because nobody else wanted to invest in the country.
The tourism industry has taken a battering because of the recent Ebola scares and even that has fallen way down on what it used to be.
And what was the President doing about it ?
Not a lot, apparently.
The army was the only institution that could be sure of getting paid every month but because he brooked no criticism and would happily arrest anybody who protested against his methods, nobody wanted to stand up to him.
Fuck !
This definitely isn't good.
Things were getting bad last year, but now it's ten times worse and survival is now the only game in town.
Keep your heads down and try not to get noticed.
No wonder Jally and the others tried to get out...
It's a seriously scary place to be right now.
Of course as soon as we find out about all this stuff then people that we know open up about what is going on and none of it is good, but what can we do living in the UK as we do ?
It's frightened Haddy, I know that much, and I can only imagine what is going through her head with the children here ?
It's not really the best time to unleash an all girl Gambian punk band on the world, is it ?
Still, tomorrow is another day and hopefully we'll have a good time as we're going to take the little ones to one of the hotels for a swimming session...
That is if we can find a hotel that's actually open ?

Monday, 21 December 2015


It’s strange, some of the things you notice when you’ve been away for a bit…
The twin's Wonjor making system seems to be going great guns in that they are selling out on a daily basis, but some people have started abusing it and have decided that they will pay when it’s convenient to them rather than at the point of sale.
That’s going to stop as soon as I can get a word in edgeways.
Plus, the whole local ‘culture’ thing is putting a fair bit of strain on the younger ones who are being used as skivvies by some of the local young men, and that is beginning to piss me off somewhat so that is going to stop NOW and there aren’t going to be any arguments unless they want one with me ?
Here’s an example of what I mean…
Its late afternoon and Haddy and the twins are out somewhere, I’m in the compound with Jalika who is sat peacefully doing her homework.
The gate opens and some youth who I don’t know from Adam walks in.
His first words are ‘Jalika, get me a drink’.
Now I appreciate that the word ‘please’ doesn’t come into it, but his attitude sucks big time because as far as I am concerned when the younger ones are doing their school assignments then they are doing just that and their time doing so is NOT going to be interrupted by some arrogant prick who seems to think he can just walk in uninvited and demand their attention.
Had he come in and just sat then I would have offered him a drink and Jalika could have gone on doing her homework without any interruption but it didn’t.
There was this implied attitude that because she’s a girl then she can just run and do his bidding when he demands it and I’m not happy about that.
This is their culture.
A ‘man’ demands and the woman or child runs to fulfill it.
It flies in the face of every reason for girls to get an education.
If the culture is not going to move forward with the times then the times have to move forward without the culture.
Anyway, I made mental notes and told Haddy about it when she returned.
She says it’s difficult because that attitude is so ingrained in that it won’t be changing anytime soon and so I said that the next one who does it will incur my severe displeasure and will be told that when the younger ones are doing their homework then they are doing something a little bit more important than being used as a slave by an uninvited so called ‘guest’.
She says that she’ll talk to the twins and Awa about it because she does actually agree with me, but that it’s going to be difficult…
Most of our regular guys who pop round know better than to get into an argument with the twins because they know they will never win it, but there’s bound to be one or two who decide that because they are male then they have certain ‘rights’.
In which case they can exercise them in their own compound and not ours, can’t they ?
But first things first…
‘Hey girls, who’s not paying for Wonjor because it seems that not everybody is ?’
Apparently all the locals and their children do, but some of the guys seem to think that they can help themselves and maybe forget to pay when the time comes.
‘Fine, so we put the lock back on the freezer door and it becomes no money, no Wonjor, that’ll cure it. And next time ‘Tufa comes in because he’s the worst offender, tell him he owes us for five large bottles, One hundred and fifty Dalasi… We have to pay for the ingredients to keep production going and he’s not helping one bit.  
Just ask him to settle his bill. If he won’t then he’ll have to find another supplier because right now he’s just taking the piss…’
‘Uncle Chris, you can’t…’
‘Who’s paying for it ? 
‘We are’.
‘He’s got himself a job which seems to pay reasonably, so he can stop scrounging off those who haven’t’.
No money, no Wonjor.

It’s possible that the spare freezer that they’ve managed to get working again will have to be moved anyway, as Fatou has been talking to the twins about opening one of the shops as a hair dressing salon.
She’ll pay for and supply all of the bits needed and the twins can work in it.
It’s not such a bad idea as there isn’t really one locally and because it’s on site as it were then they would not have to travel anywhere to work.
That is of course providing the girls are up for it and there is no guarantee that will be the case ?
But she’ll be out here anyway three weeks after we’ve flown back and so she can do her own bit of persuasion.
She’s coming out with husband Vincent and Vincent Jnr so that the family can meet her son and Jalika can meet her little brother, and that’s going to be interesting.
But that’s not our concern right now, the little ones homework is, however…

A couple of days later it occurs again and it’s the same guy, but he got me instead.
The gate swings open and in he walks like he owns the place…
‘Jalika, get me a drink…’
Jalika just carries on writing.
‘Jalika, didn’t you hear me, get me a drink’
Jalika looks up and then carries on doing her homework.
At which point I get up from where I’m sitting and ask him what his problem is ?
Can he not see that she’s doing her homework and if he wants a drink then there’s a shop opposite which sells them but if he wants water then there’s a tap over there in the corner and he can help himself but please don’t just come in and disturb people who are busy doing what they are supposed to be doing.
The look of shock on his face was a joy to behold.
Oh the joys of being a toubab.
The reality is he wants an ice cold bottle from the freezer but unless he learns not to throw his weight about he won’t be getting one, and that’s the bottom line.
He looks startled, probably because nobody has actually told him to fuck off before.
‘Ok, so you want a drink or what ?’
He stammers something then turns on his heel and leaves the compound without a drink.
Oh well, if I’m going to be the bad guy then I might as well go the whole hog ?
I know I’m going to hear about it when the twins get to know about it because he’s definitely one of their circle. 
Which I did, courtesy of the power of mobile ‘phones about ninety minutes later…
‘Uncle Chris, what did you say ?’
‘I told him Jalika was doing her homework and was not to be disturbed while she’s doing it…
I then told him that if he wanted a drink then there’s a tap in the corner and to help himself.
Of course we could always just shut the gate and then he wouldn’t come in and demand…
And that’s what pisses me off, the fact that he thinks he can just turn up and demand.
If I turned up at his family’s compound and did the same thing then they would think me rude and impolite, so what’s the difference ?
If he had just come in and sat then I would have offered, but he didn’t did he ?
He demanded, and THAT is not just impolite it’s downright rude, so I won’t be losing any sleep over it. People have to learn and if they can’t do it the easy way then they have to learn the hard way…
And the other thing is that you and your sisters, including Jalika who is the youngest, are no man’s slaves while you are in your own home and please remember that.
I understand the welcoming and politeness dictates that you offer, but it wasn’t like that, was it ?
This was just sheer arrogance and very rude and it stops now…’
Oh well, It’s going to be a major talking point later on tonight, and I reckon it’ll be all around the village in just over twenty four hours ?
Ok, make that two hours…
The strange thing is, most of the older women think I did the right thing.
The guys are a bit dubious but they say they understand.
Even if it’s NOT a man’s job to see to guests comfort...