Saturday, 28 January 2012


Funny how you notice things that puzzle you…
I asked Mariama the following morning what she was thinking about when she looked to be uninterested in what was going on around her while she was playing ?
You know what she said ?
‘The cleaning women…’
‘What !  You were more interested in the cleaning women ?’
‘They were talking about me…’
‘What were they saying' ?
‘They kept saying what’s that girl doing up there with the drummers’ ?
‘Well… You know they probably haven’t seen a girl drummer before… It probably surprised them a bit, that’s all…’
‘I didn’t like it’
‘Listen little one… You know you’re going to get a lot of that, don’t you ?  
It’s not just going to be cleaning women, there’s going to be a lot of men, too…
Thing is… You’re just going to have to ignore them and play better than anyone else and then they’re all gonna be saying hey, look at that Mariama… She can really play… And besides, if it happens, you just keep this thought in your head… Just keep thinking to yourself you might be seeing me practice now, but next time you see me you’re gonna have to pay to get in and watch, because I AM going to be the best Mandinka drummer in Africa…’
Sometimes you say the right things at the right time and I reckon that was one of those times, because I got this big smile and a little ‘Hrumph’ and then she said
‘They will have to pay…’
‘Yeah darlin’, they’re gonna have to pay to see you… And if you keep practising it’ll be sooner rather than later…’
She went off grinning, so hopefully that cured her doubt ?
Not sure it cured mine though ?
That shit suddenly brings it home to you what an uphill struggle she’s facing.
I was hoping it wasn’t going to start just yet, but since it has, let’s just face it and get it out in the open.
She’s a bright little child when she wants to be, and she has an innate knowledge already of what is ‘right’ and what is ‘unjust’-her word, and if she thinks something is wrong she’ll just stand there and keep telling the person concerned, whether they are adult or not. 
It’s not considered particularly polite to contradict your elders, even your older sisters and brothers in Gambian society, but she’ll stand there and take all the crap and the beatings and she’ll still be telling them that it’s not right at the end, as her sister Fatou has already found out when she ‘borrowed’ her drum without asking…
She’s got her Mother’s stubbornness times ten, and she doesn’t mind using it when she feels she has to, and the strange thing is, when you look at it from an ‘outsider’ perspective as I do, then ninety nine per cent of the time she’s right and the other person IS in the wrong.
It’s quite scary…

Well, I finally got the vote for the meal and so we’re off to the Chinese restaurant at Bakau.
It’ll be a first for the girls as none of them have eaten Chinese before unless I’ve made it in the compound, and to be honest that doesn’t really count.
Haddy and I are the advanced guard and we’re going up there about an hour before the tribe turn up so we can order in advance and to hopefully reserve a table big enough for the lot of us ?
Well, we got the table, that was a success at any rate…
I’d wanted to order up an assortment of things I knew, so that everyone could dip in and try different things, but I got overruled when Haddy discovered the peppered prawns…

The girls all turned up with ‘Tufa, who had borrowed somebody’s car to drive us for the evening.
They would all be taken home afterward in a couple of trips while Haddy and I ‘camped out’ for a couple of days at the African Village Hotel.
The Chinese restaurant is slightly closer to Ocean Bay Hotel but it’s still an easy walk from the African Village Hotel, not that we were going to walk it, we were getting a lift…
I mean why would any self respecting Manchester City supporter not have a Chelsea supporter to drive him about ?
That’s what better teams fans do, it’s a superiority thing…
Now if ‘Tufa had been a Barcelona supporter I’d have had a bit of a problem, but Chelsea ?
No worries.
The other reason we were getting a lift was the amount of ‘bumsters’ hanging about.
The fact we were in the Chinese restaurant was a sure giveaway that we had money with us. Not much it’s true, but enough to pay for a meal for eight people and quite honestly that would have been enough for a couple of them to take their chances, so we weren’t about to give them the option.
Better safe than sorry, anyday.
It sounds awful doesn’t it ?
But it’s no different than it is in the U.K. is it ?
Anyway… We’re camping out for a little peace and quiet away from the compound although Haddy’s got Mariatou coming over in a couple of days to do her hair and she’ll have to go back for that, but apart from that and the day that Mariama and Jalika are going to visit us and use the pool, we’re going to hopefully get some peace and quiet.
But first things first...
The first thing you notice about the girls is that they’ve all dressed up.
From Sainabou to Jalika they’ve all done it.

From the left it's Housainatou, Hassanatou,Mariama, Me, Jalika, Sainabou & 'Tufa
Haddy looks reasonable, but I have to admit compared to the rest of them, I look like a complete scruffbum.
Oh well, can’t be helped, I’ll do better next time.
When we’d ordered, Haddy had ordered three large portions of peppered prawns…
Ouch !
Not one of her better ideas ‘cos they were horrible.
Dry as a bone and instead of succulent, very sour tasting.
I tried one… Just one because after that one I couldn’t face anymore and the trouble was, neither could anyone else.
Nobody liked them.

Apparently the chicken was nice and my prawns in garlic sauce was sublime, but nobody else had ordered that.
Jalika liked her fried rice and her sesame prawn toast, but I think everybody was disappointed on the whole.
I knew we should have varied it a bit…
Chicken and cashew nuts or black bean sauce, maybe ?
Definitely duck in pancakes.
Oh well, back to La Mer next time.
Sainabou, who is a great instinctive cook, thought the flavour mixtures were interesting and said she was glad that she’d tried it, but that she preferred the food at La Mer.
That’s it then, the cook has spoken, so let it be written and so let it be done… Next time.

Peace and quiet…
Just the soft sounds of kids splashing in the pool and the birds chattering in the trees.
Maybe a muffled curse every hour when another tourist decides that they have overdone their roasting…
The waiters from the bar and the restaurant padding about taking and delivering orders…
Yes, there’s something to be said for peace and quiet and we’ve got three days of it before we have to go back to the compound and Haddy’s next meeting.
It’s likely to be chaos as there are apparently nearly fifty members of this particular organisation and they’re all women, and they’ve all had their invites…
Still, it’s got to be done.
Haddy’s not going to be there, and so they will have to elect a new secretary and all the formalities of that sort of thing are going to have to be observed, but in the meantime she’s left me here poolside and buggered off home to get her hair done.

Typically, my phone goes while I’m actually in the pool… 
Apparently ‘Tufa will be picking me up to bring me to the compound for dinner and then later on in the evening Haddy and I will be returning to the hotel.
The two little ones, Mariama and Jalika, will be turning up tomorrow, armbands at the ready.
It’ll be Mariama’s second time ever, and Jalika’s first but apparently Mariama has been trying to give Jalika a bit of confidence…
I hope she’s managed it, because water for swimming in and the average Gambian are not exactly happy bedfellows.
Ah well… Well see tomorrow.
Eeeeee… Now that’s what I call a new hairdo…
Haddy, bless her, has actually gone for the one that I really liked, and is now, hairwise, the spitting image of blues singer Buddy Guy, without the moustache thankfully, but the hair is a dead ringer.
As far as looks are concerned it takes about five to ten years off her age too.
That is definitely going to take some getting used to.

When ‘Tufa brought me to the compound the whole place was packed with kids.
Little Haddy is there with her younger brother Pa Musa, and N’dey, her younger sister who is Jalika’s age, so the seating arrangements in the lounge are a bit cramped with all the younger girls crammed onto the sofa.
Mariama’s best friend Ida, from over the road, is also there and she’s babysitting one of the little ones (another Omar) from over at the opposite compound.

N'dey, Jalika, Haddy, Mariama & Ida with baby Omar
Thankfully, he’s got a dummy stuck in his mouth and is giving out beaming smiles all
around so there are no worries on that score.
Ida’s Omar is also there, trying to get everybody to play with him and generally being as awkward, spiteful and grizzly as only he can, and the more tired he gets, the worse he gets…

Omar on the left & Pa Musa on the right, immediately before the launching...
Mariama and Jalika are playing cat’s cradle with a length of string that one of them has found, and they are having a right old time trying to outdo each other with the patterns when Omar decides he wants to cut in whilst they are in the middle of it.
His first mistake was trying to snatch it from Jalika who just holds it higher so he can’t reach it.
Now, thoroughly exasperated and knowing he’s not going to get his own way, he screams at Jalika…
‘Your mother’s head…’
Jesus H. Christ !
Nobody even saw her move, but they certainly saw Omar, whose body has just described a perfect arch, albeit with legs flapping, straight over the coffee table with the large flower arrangement in the centre, and hit, head first, the tiled floor on the other side…
This of course, just made him scream louder.
Fucking hell ! 
She must have launched him about three feet upwards ?
His mother, Ida, has run in to see what has happened to her screaming son.
Jalika has fired off a few words in Wolof, which I later heard mean ‘Don’t you dare insult my Mother or I’ll do it again’.
Haddy has ordered a screaming Omar from the premises and told Ida to keep him out…
Oh it’s all great fun in Fagikunda...
I guess it's what doesn't pass as 'peace and quiet...?
Me ?
I’m just wondering how the hell Jalika managed to upper-cut him from a sitting position ?
Jalika is just sitting there, eyes aflame, waiting for the inevitable fallout from her actions and everybody else is totally speechless.
‘Come here, little one… Give Uncle Chris a hug…’
And I just reached down and scooped her up.
‘Sometimes these things have to be done… Don’t worry, it’s all part of growing up…’
Jalika wouldn’t have understood a word I’d said, but that didn’t matter.
What mattered was that she understood she wasn’t in trouble because of it.
I kissed her forehead and gently dropped her back on the sofa next to Mariama.
‘Mariama… Look after your sister…’
‘I will…’
And everybody started talking at once…
You get told these things occur but you don’t really understand it, then you see it with your own eyes…
Bloody hell, that girl packs a punch.
I’d been told, and you know what it’s like, you think that maybe there is more than a hint of exaggeration, after all, she’s only seven years old, and then… SMACK !
Right in front of your eyes…
There had definitely been no exaggerating.
Mohammed Ali would have been proud of that one.

It’s late when we finally get our lift back to the hotel.
Sorry ‘Tufa.
Haddy has had words with Ida about Omar’s behaviour, and has basically banned him from the house until he learns that some form of behaviour is unacceptable.
Sainabou has been told that all the girls can take over if Haddy isn’t there.
Hassanatou already does, and has clouted him previously on a couple of occasions but now they’ve all had official permission.
Either he learns that some things are beyond the pale, or he stays out.
The fact that he now cannot watch the television is going to be punishment enough I think, but we’ll see.
Only time will tell.

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