Saturday, 14 June 2008

The Gambian Experience Part Eleven. Don't Let That Deal Go Down... La Mer (The Penultimate Night...). From January 2008.

Photo's from the top:-

An expensive 'piece of cloth'.

Everything started getting a little bit hectic round about now.
Rush, rush, rush...
Seems like it was all I did ?
It's not really true...
The reality was that I had a last day to come but I didn't trust that to feel unrushed either so I wanted to make every minute count.
I finally met Haddy's son Amadou also.
Amadou goes to Senior Secondary School and stays with his stepmother's family at present.
Haddy would like him to work a bit harder at school but Amadou has that teenage itch and so is causing Haddy a few worries but he seems a nice enough lad.
He has other plans and they include a girlfriend so he will not be coming with us to the restaurant tonight.
So... It looks like it's just the girls, 'Tufa, Haddy and me, then ?

Sainabou's toothache seems to be approaching critical mass right now and it's 500 dalasi a visit to the dentist. I'd give her the money but my spending has gone over budget as it is and I daren't until my last day.
Sometimes you do these trips abroad and find things you just have to buy...
I was no exception.
The street traders at the hotel had been trying to get me to buy something/anything from them since I'd arrived but apart from a baby kora with seven strings as opposed to the proper twenty three, and yes, I know it's touristy, but I can get a vague tune and rhythm from it so it can be used onstage or for recording, so there !
plus the CD's and DVD's I'd not bought a lot, and then one day one of them brought along this painting on cloth, an abstract painting of drummers in a group and I sort of did a double take when I saw it.
Trouble was, it was nearly four feet long with a three feet drop.
Now that is big by picture standards for an ordinary English house, but then I figured that since I hadn't got anything on the wall over the hi-fi and sound system stuff in the lounge...
Maybe ?
But could I get them down in price ?
That was the burning issue as everybody wants a bargain and so long as we're both happy with the outcome then let's see what we can do ?
The first day I'd just looked, trying to keep my avaricious eyes behind the shades...
I wanted that picture but I wasn't about to let them know how much ?
Second time I saw it they'd hung it over a wall so it was displayed for all to see so I stopped and admired it, as you do...
On the way out it was still there so we stopped and admired it again.
I'd asked Haddy to stay out of the bargaining until the end when she could converse with them in their own language to 'seal the deal' and so I did the 'touristy' thing and kept admiring it until they'd come down 400 dalasi...
Now let's see if they'll drop the other 400 ?
No, not yet, come on, let's go...
Let them wonder whether I'm for real ?
Ah... The 'psychology' of street trading...
It's the same everywhere you go, from English markets and boot fairs to The Gambia's street traders... It's the same everywhere.
I am for real.
I want the thing but I still reckon 1000 dalasi is too much for a few daubs of black paint on a light pink cloth even though I love what the artist has done with their daubs...
Right... let's go for it on our next time past them.
They open with a thou', I counter with 300. It's a piece of cloth after all...
It's cheap... It's 'touristy...'
Yes, it is... I couldn't possibly pay all that money for a piece of cloth...
800 dalasi.
No, too much... (To Haddy...) Do they think I'm silly ?
So she started up and it dropped to 750.
Now we're cooking.
Offer them 500 and let's see ?
Screams of laughter from their side and a couple of shaking heads...
Ok, we're going to have to go (looks at Haddy's watch and gestures to entrance where 'Tufa is waiting with the car...)
Ok, offer them 600 but tell them it's final 'cos I can't possibly go any more than that...
They could take 650 but they wouldn't make any commission and they'd be forever street traders and...
Ok ! Tell them 650 and it's a done deal and they can still pay the artist and take their commission and pay for their pitch at the hotel and buy clothes for their families and all the rest...
Pay the man.
They seem pleased they got 650 dalasi and it's 50 more than I'd wanted to pay, but I don't begrudge it.
I like that picture.
Besides, as an ex-market trader myself of fourteen years standing, I like keeping my hand in.
So that's where the extra money went...
Unfortunately for Saina'.

The restaurant we've chosen is one of the local recommended ones and specialises in fish dishes which is fine by me.
La Mer... (Beyond the sea...) Oh come on... Don't go all George Benson'y on me... The Bobby Darin and Errol Garner versions are much better in my opinion, but the restaurant is one hundred yards from the hotel entrance and is walking distance...
Through the sandy dust admittedly, but walking distance nevertheless.
It is also on a small clifftop just 'Beyond the sea', so...
Everybody is dressing up for this one.
Even 'Tufa and I are wearing real shirts as opposed to the usual football shirt or
It's still too hot for my balding red headed pate, even at 6.00 in the evening so I'm going to be bandana'd up anyway.
I think the nice clean black Grateful Dead one this evening...
You might as well wear your 'Colours' if you are going out.
We get a couple of tables pushed together outside overlooking the sea for the seven of us and order up.
Everyone is drinking fruit juice or coca cola except me who's doing the local beer.
Before we go any further let me clear up something for the record.
Moslems don't drink alcohol...
In the West maybe it's a bit different ?
Haddy's children are all Moslem and they have been brought up in the religion of their father as opposed to their mother (who's a Christian).
It would seem this tradition is common to most families I met while I was out there.
Anyway, the drinks arrive and I promptly order another beer.
I'm thirsty.
So we sit and chat as 'families' do, while waiting for our food to arrive.
Now I can't speak for the others because I didn't eat their food, but when it arrived
it was quite impressive.
There didn't seem to be any shaving of sizes on the portions, and taste wise, mine was great.
I had a fish dish with garlic, Gambian rice, which has kidney beans and chopped chilli in it and a green salad with a mushroom in garlic starter.
You know what it's like...
You order these things up never having tried it before, and half the time you are disappointed...
Not this time.
The food was great.
Haddy had a prawn something or other and everyone else wanted chicken of some description but we all seemed to enjoy what we'd ordered.
Then it was 'sweet' time.
Everybody wanted ice creams of some description and looking at the size of them I just thought I won't bother, but if somebody doesn't manage to finish theirs I could certainly help them out...
Which I managed to do... Three times.
To put it mildly, I was 'stuffed'.
Ok, black coffee to finish and that's it...
Maybe another black coffee and a brandy as an aid to digestion ?
Good idea.
I'm still stuffed.
When we asked for the bill the owner's wife came out for the money and didn't bother with any change which I thought was ok until Haddy told me that our two waiters were unlikely to see any of the tip and she was going to say and do something about it...
Whoops !
Ok, calm down, I'll sort this with money as there is no reason for a stand up and knockdown fight if the food is that good, as when I come back I'd still like to eat there because of the food, but...
So I gave the waiters two hundred dalasi each for their trouble.
It had to be done surrepticiously because somebody had their eye on us, but I think we managed it.
Now personally I'm inclined to Haddy's view that it was completely out of order, but I don't speak the language and Haddy can be a little firebrand when she wants to be
so admittedly I took the 'easy' way out.
The thing nobody counts on are things like these where you can redress the balance somewhat.
So yes, the food is great, the service is good and the owner's wife is greedy...
That's the review for the English speaking world.
The whole meal including my four beers and brandy came to less than 4000 dalasi all in.
That's less than ninety five quid English or one hundred and ninety American dollars for a meal including drinks for seven people. (The American rate has bettered since I've been back and the English rate has gone down).
But we learned for next time.
Looks like 'Tufa is going to have to stop at one of the country's few cash machines
(Visa only) for my last two days as I'm nearly out.
Bummer !

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