Binta (In the leaf pattern dress) and the local girls, dancing up a storm
Mariama doing the same in her Chelsea kit...
Little Ida in Benfica kit.
Neighbour Ida's little'un, Omar .
Joy T. having just arrived.
The third Gambian Experience is off and under way and here we are, me and my co-conspirator from Parnassus Performance, The N.P.W/Chris Ripple X-perience and Bass Relief,
Ms Joy T.Chance, are seated aboard an early morning Monarch Airlines flight out of Gatwick on a cold November day bound for the warmer climes of Banjul Airport in The Gambia.
Well, we would be if a couple of mechanics weren't hammering nails into a wing panel to hold it in place as the previous one had fallen off somewhere...
No, I'm not joking, it fell off somewhere and since this is definitely a health and safety issue (MINE), I have no problem with it, honestly...
I just have this picture of a bloke in a Monarch Airlines suit, hammering on some foreign geezer's front door and saying "Scuse me mister, can we have our bit of wing back, please ?"
So, no problem with the guys at Monarch. Be safe, be certain and be professional and they were all of that.
Still, after flying out about an hour late, the flight being totally uneventful and with a 100 mph wind at our back we'd made up 45 mins when we reached Banjul only 15 mins later than the flight's scheduled arrival.
We breeze through Customs and Immigration their side (I only get problems leaving the country...
Something to do with giving up cigarettes, but more of that, later) and it's straight out into the arrivals area where Haddy and 'Tufa are waiting to greet us...
"It's Mr Chris..." yells 'Tufa, loud enough for the security guards to all turn their heads and look sternly toward the event that has just bothered their equilibrium, but it turns into grins at the giant 'hug in' that is occuring on their turf and they go about their job again knowing we might look a bit weird but we're ok really.
It's a bit strange for me as Joy is my ex-girlfriend and Haddy and Joy did not get on too well when I was going out with her, but she's a much loved friend and a great co-star/conspirator whether she's an ex or not, and I'm so glad that her current boyfriend, Kieran, allowed her and trusted her enough to come with me. (Thanx mate, I owe you a beer or something... Mine's a J2O).
Anyway, back to the immediate plot.
As soon as we get to Haddy's compound it's all out of the car and leg it inside before the village comes over to greet the guests (Hey, I'm not knocking it, it's nice) and to see if we can drink down at least one delicious cup of tea before it all starts...
No chance... We were spotted by too many...
We did get the cup of tea but I managed only half before forgetting where I'd left it in the hubbub.
Joy, being black herself, is being greeted as a long lost sister even though her parent's roots were in what was once British Guyana and hers are totally English...
It's mad, it's mindblowing and it's a lovely welcome for her and I think she really was a bit emotionally overcome by it all.
Sorry if that wasn't the case, mate, but it did look that way to me, and who's writing this anyway ?
After a couple of hours we take her about a quarter of a mile up the road in the car to the room she is staying in for the duration of her stay.
It is basically furnished but at least she is in the village.
That means a lot to the people here.
She will be eating and rehearsing over at Haddy's with me anyway and we're going to find out very soon if it's acceptable to her ?
Joy chooses a ground floor room at the back of the guest house (It's cooler that side) and pronounces it as being better than Cairo, so that's ok, then, now it's back to the compound to greet the kids who are back from school and the rest of the village who have now found out about our arrival from the first lot...
Mothers, children, even some of the local men who have heard about why we are here, are turning up to officially welcome us on their behalf to their village.
It is one hell of an emotional moment and there ain't no doubts about that.
Joy needs her sleep and I certainly need mine, having been up nearly 36 hours, so she makes her excuses around ten o'clock after a quick shower to get the travel grime off, and 'Tufa runs her back to the guest house.
I blagged the next shower and virtually collapsed, exhausted...
Oh blimey ! I can hear the man from the mosque... It's morning.