Wednesday, 27 March 2013


Home again and miserable…
Both of us wishing we were back in The Gambia.
The weather started changing as soon as we got back.
It’s chilly…
Well, it would be wouldn’t it ?   
It’s March.
And now it’s raining…

My Father is definitely ailing…
We’d sent a card in advance but we’d been away for his 92nd birthday.
It’s that crazy up and down that life throws at you.
Not only that, but a friend had inadvertently sent me a computer virus and knocked the computer for six !
It didn’t seem to want to go, and when I finally got rid of it, the thing jammed up on an uninstalling of the security system !!!
Shit !
Bollocks !!
Fuck It !!!
It’ll have to wait, everybody’s busy right now.
Oh well, we do have a wedding anniversary do to go to.
My mate Grant Meaby from Parnassus Performance and gigs all over the place, had notched up thirty years with his wife Sue, and his daughters had planned a party behind their backs at Springfield House.
Because we’d been away, I’d sorted out our attendance before we’d left and before we knew it, it was time.
So, down to Stevenage Old Town we went.

The girls were already there and so we just grabbed a seat and sat quietly with the other early arrivals.
All Grant and Sue knew was they had to dress up because their girls were taking them out.
And the subterfuge worked…
One of them had gone back when most of us were already there, to pick up their Mum and Dad…

Whose faces were an absolute ‘picture’ when they walked into Springfield House and saw us all sitting there.

Friends, relations, poets, gig-going mates, the girls had thought of the lot and I finally met ‘officially’ for the 

first time, some of Grant’s mates from ‘The Fellowship of the Stick’.

It was a good night.

And if I’m totally honest, it couldn’t have happened to a nicer couple.

Then it just seemed to hit us...
I bumped into Frank whilst down the town and he asked me if I'd heard about Steve ?
It turns out a mutual friend who had actually lived above one of my old shops had committed suicide.
Steve, being a train fan, had taken his own life by throwing himself under a train.
Train fan ?
It doesn't do him justice.
Biker, gig-goer...
Christ !  I'd been to enough of those with him ?
Aero' nut, music fan, and all round nice bloke.
He'd even given me the title for one of my poems before I'd written it when he and Frank had walked out of the shop, straight into the path of a couple of orange coloured young women who had obviously been at the sun lamp and who were talking about screwing guys in the leisure park bars toilets...
Classic !
And so The Ballad of Bimbo was born...
Well, written anyway.
We had to wait a few weeks for the inquest, but finally the body was released for burial.
The funeral home was packed...
Standing room only, and it was only what he deserved.
As usual at these events, the heavens opened and it poured down.
Meet On The Ledge at Cropredy is going to take on a new significance this year because Annie and Vicky used to work at the same place Steve did.
The wake was held at one of the local pubs...
Part of my life has just gone missing.

The following week we’re visiting my Father in hospital.

He’d picked up a couple of infections, or if truth be told, at least one of which we all suspected had never actually left him.
Everytime we saw him, he was looking weaker, more fragile, and closer to the end.
It was not a happy time for any of us.
The hospital transferred him back to the care home and life seemed to go on until I received the early morning call from my Mother…
One week before Rhythms of the World.

Rhythms had been coming on apace.
I’d managed to finalise my stage within the time constraints given and I was ready to go.
Unfortunately, the same week my Father died, two of my artists had to drop out.
One from a poetry slot, and one from a musical one.
I’m also told that the stage housing has got a bit larger from last year as the powers that be have changed it…
I wish they’d told me that before we’d sized up the backdrop ?
It’s a bummer, but if it occurs you just deal with it.
The poetry slot was easiest to re-fill as three of us would be working at the stage, me, Grant and Sarah, and Graeme we knew was in the audience, so members of Parnassus would re-place the poets and Mark Astronaut and Dom’ could replace the band.
That was that sorted.

And we’d cope with the backdrop…
What else could we do ?
If anybody at Rhythms thought I was going to disappoint any of those kids in The Gambia by not putting it up, then they could think again ?
The funeral of my Father was another matter.
Because he had died in a care home, there was going to have to be an autopsy.
It’s hard enough losing your Father without all the messing about with official channels, but official channels were going to have to be followed nevertheless.
As for us, I'd never lost a parent before, so Haddy took charge of all the little things that go with it.

At one point she even put up a Facebook tribute page for those back home in The Gambia.
Her Father in law had died, and the placing of a photograph with a candle was something that all the locals did back home, so why not use electronic means to get the message across ?
So that's what we did.
Not sure how my Mother is going to feel about that, but it's Haddy's tribute and it's her way of doing things, so there was no way I would have tried to argue her out of it. 

Haddy had previously booked a flight to Glasgow to see her daughter Fatou, who was about to give birth, officially on Rhythms weekend.
She’d booked her flight for the Monday afterwards.
That had to be cancelled.
When could she go ?
After Dad’s funeral which couldn’t be booked until after the autopsy.
Finally it’s all over, and the funeral is booked for the Thursday after Rhythms.
Haddy’s re-scheduled flight is now the day after the funeral…
I wonder if Fatou can hang on for that long ?
I’m flying up to join her two weeks later , but in the meantime I’m doing my best to get back into ‘Rhythms’ mode.
That was easier said than done.
The rain that started back in March has continued into the summer months…
It’s pissing down and with the odd hour's break occasionally, it has been for a couple of months.
The site build for Rhythms is lagging behind because of the rain.
The volunteers don’t want to volunteer and get soaked building the site, and so we have fewer of them.
The Thursday preceeding the opening Saturday, We took a trip to the site…

It’s chaos and it's muddy...                    

Which is what I expected, but because of the rain it would seem I’m only going to have three stage blocks ?
Am I fuck ?
I couldn’t even put a duo on those with any safety, so where are the rest ?
Stolen by others for other things…
The least of which is to make a plynth to put their soundesks on.
Come on guys, use your fucking brains will you, please ?
Stages come before soundesk plynths, so give ‘em back.
No chance.
Possession being a little bit more than nine points of the law.

There is however, a ‘new’ Proscenium Archway down towards the Arcadeclectic Stage that will look really effective with all the decorations on it.
Win some, lose some.
Oh well, I’ll just have to piss off a few people on Facebook…
Which I proceeded to do.
The word incompetence was mentioned a couple of times, which managed to piss off those who had got me the three blocks, but as they would know, because one of them would be playing it on the Sunday, as stage manager I couldn’t sign it off as safe for use…
There really isn’t any point arguing the toss if that’s the case, is there ?
No safe stage so no bands…
Simple enough, isn’t it ?

And so with a little trepidation, Haddy and I drove to the site first thing on the Saturday morning…

Monday, 25 March 2013


We’re going back to school again…
It’s our last full day here, and we are going to see what the children have done about a certain
backdrop ?
It’s quite sad really as we will be flying back on Haddy’s birthday

We’re giving the children plenty of time to get in this time and are arriving a bit later, ie 9.15 instead of 9.00.
We’ve got the donation to the school funds, so let’s get it over with.
I still don’t like going to schools…

Certainly not standing outside headmistress/headmaster’s offices.
There’s something about them always makes me feel guilty but blowed if I know what, after all, on this trip I’m innocent ?
Didn’t work though…
The kids were STILL out.

I think some of them seem to be expecting us ?

So we start with the headmistress, who then goes to all the classes involved and asks if the children who designed and painted it could all ‘quietly’ come outside for a ‘photo’ shoot ?
I’ll tell you what, kids being kids, they couldn’t get out fast enough.
This was different.

And there it was…

I nearly cried.
Nearly, but not quite.
It was ‘Gambian’, no doubts about that.
And it was perfect.
It was ‘us’, and it was ‘Arcadeclectic’ to a tee…

We’d wondered, bearing in mind the fabric was a light blue, if the children would choose the colours of the Gambian national flag, and they had done just that without any prompting from us.
Designed by Gambian children in the colours of their national flag as a backdrop to the stage where a Gambian and her husband work ?
I didn’t think it could get better than that, but it did.
The headmistress informs us that because of the interest initially in the project, that the staff have offered the children a ‘singers club’ as an after school activity because there is no music in the curriculum.
Unfortunately, this has been ‘extremely’ over-subscribed, worse even than the original painting project and so, just as they had done with the backdrop project, the younger classes have had to drop out.
When she told me that, I think I audibly winced ?
She laughed and just said ‘Jalika ?’
‘Don’t worry, we’ve had a talk with her, she’ll be in within the next two terms’
At least they knew.
She’s going to be very disappointed though.
As if they hadn’t already got enough on their plates with Mariama ?
And guess what ?
Today is school sports day and two still very tired little girls are not looking forward to it for one minute…

We took photographs on both cameras just to make sure, and then joined the headmistress in her office.

We get the backdrop and the school gets the donation from ‘Rhythms of The World’.
If schools from other countries that have connections with the festival in any way are getting involved, then it only goes to prove that it truly is a rhythms of ‘The World’ event.

Not bad for a bunch of volunteers, is it ?
One of the twenty best festivals in Britain as recommended by the Daily Telegraph, and better yet, one of the ten best world music festivals in the UK according to Songlines magazine (That’s a world music magazine, by the way… Covers pretty much every country on the planet)
And one day, maybe one of those children will play the festival in their own right ?
There were definitely two in the school that had eyes upon it, so why not more ?
This year we’d got two Gambian acts on the main World Music Stage.
This one...

and this one…

We’d had a Senegalese artist last year so we’d been close, now it’s time for the real thing and we’d got a serious couple of class acts in Sona Jobarteh and JuJu this year.
And if you talk to the kids out there, you will find out that they definitely know their music.
I’d mentioned Juldeh Camara to a couple of them who were possibly a year older than Mariama, and was informed he was a ‘Fula’ and he plays a ‘Riti’, (a one stringed violin is the closest way of describing it) and they mimicked him doing it.
They got that right.
They’re proud of their native sons and daughters breaking out and being successful around the world.
It gives them hope that they might do so in the future.
And who is to say that some of them won’t ?
Jalex is now known over most of West Africa, Germany and Scandinavia and he is a success story,
(he’s bloody good too, I’ve played  ‘support’ to him) Jaliba Kuyateh, and there are others also.
Juldeh Camara from JuJu has played with the Afro Manding guys in Sennagambia…
Now he’s in JuJu with Justin Adams AND Robert Plant’s new group, and as any and all readers with even a shred of musical knowledge of popular music over the last three or four decades should know, Robert Plant, ex-Led Zeppelin, is seriously BIG TIME.
It shows you what a small world it really has become.
The Gambia is a small country in the physical sense if you are counting by miles and area, but its heart is big, bigger than some politicians realise…
And its musical time will definitely come.

That afternoon I start preparing the meal.
I’m cheating, because I’ve got a couple of jars of ‘cook in sauce’, but the saag aloo (curried spinach and potato) I made myself.
It seems to go on forever and I know why ?
My helper in all my cooking ventures isn’t here any more.
Sainabou had an abiding passion for cooking and cooking well.
She was and is, damn good at it.
She was quick, and always ready to try new things.
Even digging out a couple of the recipes I’d given her on previous trips when we weren’t there, to cook like Uncle Chris…
Spaghetti Bolognese, Moroccan meatballs in lemon tagine, these were now part of Sainabou’s life and now she’s going to miss out on my first Gambian Indian meal…
Oh well, it can’t be helped.
Mariama and Jalika are willing helpers, however.
Finally, after a lot of stop and start, I managed to get everything ready at the same time.
I’m serving it with boiled rice flavoured with turmeric (so it turns yellow) with four or five crushed cloves and the same of cracked cardommum seeds to give it that authentic Indian’y flavouring,  naan bread and poppadums, and, I’ve managed to get some lime pickle and mango chutney…
Oh well, here we go…
Blimey !
How many people have we got in our family ?
There’s a compound full of them and that’s with the twins and Amadou missing because they’re out at Aliou Bah’s drenching 

(he’s bringing his wife home and the ‘extended family’ have a little surprise for him…)

Word has definitely seeped out.
I hope I’ve made enough ?
Right, get stuck in…

For a time all you can hear are the sounds of masticating molars…
Chewing and eating.
Then Aunt Rose said ‘Tres bon’ and something else in French which I didn’t catch because she will speak so fast.
Didn’t matter anyway, because they all started speaking at once after that.
Apparently, they liked it.
Some were most enamoured of the lime pickle and I tried to explain how they could make it, but I think that will be for our next trip whenever that is ?
Others liked the bread folded around bits of saag aloo, or the bread around the small chicken pieces in their Jalfrezi sauce.
But whichever way they liked it, we still had to reserve three portions for the twins and Amadou.
The rest just vanished.
Poor Princess, who has been hovering around for just this moment is going to be out of luck.
It doesn’t faze her however, because she stuck her head in every pot and licked up anything that was stuck to the sides.
A cat that does the washing up ?
If only ?

Later in the evening we are going round ‘Tufa’s girlfriend’s place to congratulate her on their new baby.
It’s way across town, as it were.
There is definitely a party atmosphere happening when we arrive, but ‘Tufa is in the family’s bad books for getting their daughter pregnant.
It happens, and they’ll probably get over it ?
At least he has a ‘professional’ job, being a taxi driver and he’s a good one, too.
So long as he doesn’t prang the car, he’ll be ok.

So we go and sit in the house with the new Mum and the baby girl who makes everybody go all gooey.
She is a pretty little baby, though.
That’ll serve ‘Tufa right when she gets to her teens…
I’ll bet he’ll be the strictest father on the block.

Finally, after a snack and a drink, he takes us back to the compound and we attempt to get an early night…
The best laid plans, eh ?
The children wake us up at midnight and we have to get up because it’s now Mum’s birthday and there are presents…

It’s our last morning here, and we need to be at the airport for one-thirty pm.
There are lots of hugs and a few tears from some members of the family and even a couple of the neighbours.
It’s always hard to say goodbye here.
It’s not just family, it’s everybody.
Sainabou has now gone to be part of Djibbi’s family and everybody is going to miss her, so it’s even more difficult this time.
Apparently Aunt Rose is going to stay on and look after the girls for a bit.
Her husband, Sebastian, will be going back to Senegal.
We’ve still got several ‘guests’ who have not gone back home yet since the wedding and apparently are waiting for us to give them money for their trip ?
They’re going to have a very long wait and they won’t be scrounging food for much longer either, and if Aunt Rose is in charge, they definitely won’t be.
Saying goodbye is always hard, but we’d sooner be at the airport where we can just relax at Luigi’s prior to take-off, get an overpriced snack and an overpriced drink and just wait until the flight is called…
We’ll be back in the UK in about six hours…
It’s a different world.

Back at Gatwick it’s the usual half mile walk before we have to queue in two different queue’s for immigration, with only the one officer checking those without E.U passports, and about seven doing E.U’s..
It’s ridiculous but what can you do ?
It means that I just sit behind the now two officers checking the non-EU arrivals and wait.
And wait…
And wait…
And occasionally, one of the officers will ask why I’m there ?
‘I’m waiting for my wife…’
And then I’m ignored until the next one see’s what looks like a derelect sitting on a chair behind him.
Hey, I may look like a derelect but at least I’m comfortable.
Looking at some of the other passengers who have insisted upon ‘dressing up’ for a flight does make you wonder about their common sense quotient ?
Be comfortable.
If you aren’t and you are restricted, there is more chance of a DVT…
(Deep Vein Thrombosis)
And you do get a lot of those caused by aeroplane flights, so…

Finally, she’s in.
No problem with documentation, just a cursory look, and a look behind to see ‘her husband who she is travelling with’ and she’s in.
Now we have to hope our luggage hasn’t been half inched by mistake by one of the travelling piss-heads ?
(sorry…  stolen by drunken returning holidaymakers)
Through the red zone, heavily oversubscribed on tobacco, and one bottle of booze over the limit, suitcases opened by bored customs officers and we’re waved through with thanks for actually declaring it.
No problem.
I’m going to get stopped in green anyway, I always have been ever since I started flying, so why give a supercilious prick in a uniform the chance to belittle you, especially when they find fuck all ?
No chance of that in the red zone.
Those guys are just pleased to see someone… And they are a lot more polite.
Besides, when you walk out of the red you get to see all the guilty smugglers with their open suitcases…
Like the woman whose suitcase was full of food ?
Well, some would claim it as food, others would curse her as a ‘bush-meat ‘ smuggler.
I’m glad they caught her.
Or the bloke whose wooden carvings seem to have a ‘hollowed out space’ in the centre ?
It makes you wonder how they think the customs service works ?
Dumb and dumber is not an expression I use that often (didn’t think much of the film, either) but those two were definitely dumb and dumber.

Hey, it’s warm…
Admittedly it’s spitting with rain and it's now 1.30 in the morning, but it’s warm.
Come on, let’s queue for the bus to the car park and go home...

Sunday, 24 March 2013


By the time we’d had a couple of hours sleep it was the middle of the afternoon...
So shower…
Shit !  That’s cold.
And stumble outside into blinding sunlight.
I have to admit I’ve seen better days…
There’s nothing wrong with blinding sunlight, it’s just when you’ve had about five hours sleep in forty eight hours it can be a bit harsh.
I think we ought to wake up the little ones in the next hour otherwise they’ll be off school again ?

It seems like some other families have the same idea…
Ida is awake, and wants to know if Sibo is ?

‘Hey, Mariama… You awake ?’
‘Ok, well Ida’s here if you are ?’
A very unsteady and bleary eyed drum monster appears in her bedroom doorway wrapped in a towel, closely followed by the smaller one of the species…
‘You ok, Jalika ?’
‘Yeah… That’s what I thought, too…  Go on, get a shower and we’ll fix you something to eat…’

Ten minutes later they are washed, dressed and up…  

I’m not sure about awake,
though ?

Which is more than can be said for us, but we better start getting ready because people have started arriving and the ‘Hey, Neneh Kombo…’ cries have started.
It’s not going to do them a blind bit of good because we’re out of here, tonight.
We’re going back to The African Village Hotel for some peace and quiet before we attempt to film the band again.
It’s only for the one night but at least it’s going to be a little bit more relaxing than staying here, and we’ll wake up to breakfast on the terrace overlooking the sea, relaxing in the sun next to the swimming pool, and being waited upon, hand and foot.
So… What’s not to like ?
Ok, we have to leave in the middle of the afternoon to do a bit of filming, but before we do we're going to do an errand for my brother and hand deliver a digital camera to one of the firemen at Bakau Fire and Rescue Station.

My brother had been here for my wedding and had struck up a conversation with one of the local sea-rescue guys, then, when he'd got back home, he'd written a nice article about his trip in the paper (The Daily Astorian) of which he's editor, and the pair of them had corresponded by e-mail ever since. 

After the filming we'll stop off at the supermarkets in Westfield to buy a bit (Bit ?) of produce on the way back, so that I can make the family a Chicken Jalfrezi , which is my choice for this trip’s family meal cooked by me, but that’s not work, is it ?
Or it shouldn’t be ?

We’re off.
Later than I’d have liked, but finally we’ve escaped…
Check in, then hit the bar just in time to see the hotel’s entertainment.
They were good.
No doubts about that.
This band could play in any hotel anywhere.
Not sure they’re quite the sort of band that’ll ‘pull’ to Club 85 back home, unlike the Afro Manding guys who I’d love to put on, but nevertheless, a good band.
Shame they had no cd’s for sale, but never mind.
They were worth the money I stuck in their collection bucket.
Another drink, then go back to the chalet, close the mosquito net around us, and sleep…

The morning opens with a heat haze over the sea.

Looking right toward Bakau fish market, from the breakfast terrace

Breakfast from Harriet, which includes bread, cheese, omelette and a couple of black coffee’s

Looking left and slightly down, from the breakfast terrace

and we’re set up for a morning’s laziness by the pool. 

The news reports on the bar’s television are an absolute nightmare.
Fighting in Syria, bombs going off in Afghanistan and Iraq, bankers bonuses in the UK, the usual catalogue of things that no man in their right mind would visit on anybody, but there it was, on Al Jazeera, so it must be true.
That last sentence is not supposed to be taken sarcastically.
Al Jazeera employs one of the best sets of news reporters in the world.
Strange, a BBC watcher saying that, but the beeb has been getting rather left-wing of late, and quite honestly it was their bunch of greedy, grasping and venal so-called politicians that got Britain into the state it is in now…
Not that you’d currently hear the BBC criticising them.
Mind you, Britain is apparently in the middle of a March heatwave !!!
It is apparently twenty degrees back there, and we're in thirty six to forty and it only drops to twenty six around midnight...
Sometimes there's no justice.
They should be suffering not enjoying themselves while we're in the sun.
Anyway, I digress…
The news is dire elsewhere but we’re here, relaxing.
A quick dip in the pool, and the rest of the time spent drying off before lunch, which in my case is the garlic prawns, a last coffee and it’s time to get ready to leave.

First it's the fire station just up the road from the hotel's entrance.
He's in but he's asleep, so one of the other guys goes to wake him up.
Well, that was something he didn't expect.

One VERY happy fire and rescue team member, and I'm glad...

Doesn't matter what continent you are on or in which country ?
These guys put their lives on the line on a daily basis to help save others in some really terrible and horrible situations sometimes, and they are ALL worthy of our respect.
Happy to do it, Bruv.

Taxi to Banjul, and we’re there.
I’ve had instructions from Macumba as to where to find them.
Entrance to bar opposite the back way into the craft market.
Past the closed and locked toilets (Ominous) and we are in.
It’s obviously a ‘bar’ for the local traders as nobody is going to find it otherwise.
The bar does have a seafront view however, albeit from behind a mesh grille, but it also has a low metal roof
so there could be a bit of echo on this recording ?
First things first, though…
‘Right, who wants a drink before we start ?’
Five coke’s and a couple of Fanta’s later and we’re ready.
‘And as for you, Mister No-Show…’
‘I’m here now…’ said Jally
‘Yeah, but Hadim isn’t, he’s in mourning for his Father… But, we’ll get what we can’.

Hadim wasn’t the only one missing.
Their ballaphon player has had to work and wasn’t going to make it, either.

We filmed for just under an hour, getting some (hopefully ?) 



                                                                                                                                                                                                            of hands on drums                                                                         

and plucking strings of koras. 

It certainly makes a difference with Jally here because it means the vocal centre of all the songs is intact.
It’s alright practicing and playing around them, but vocals do tend to ‘define’ (Is that the right word. Yes, I think it is ?) a song, especially when, strictly speaking, it’s music that people dance to.

You get all the little nuances that otherwise would be missed.
Changing the subject slightly, I think Frank Zappa was right in what he said, in that ‘Writing about music is like dancing about architecture…’ Or something along those lines anyway ?

How do I even convey half of what we saw, photographed and filmed ? 

You had to be there.

You had to see it all happening and you had to hear it. 

Then maybe you’d understand why I want to help these guys ?
At one point, Doudou, the band’s manager, has to go out to the beach to remonstrate with a guy who has got it into his head that he can interrupt what we are attempting to do and screw me for money.
See… It’s that fucking ‘Screw the Toubab’ shit again…
Just because I’m white for Chrissakes ?
Let’s get it sorted once and for all.
That plain enough for everybody ?
My money that I earn is for my family and my friends.
The fact that I have friends and family on three continents is sometimes not a help, but to be accused of ‘stealing the Mandinka culture’ by this poncing bumster when we’d paid our own way here, were doing the whole thing for the band who are my friends, and wanted absolutely nothing whatsoever  in return, was going a bit far.
Far enough for me to put down my camera and go for the fucker…
Which is why Doudou intervened, and he’s twice the size I am.
A little bit of ‘remonstrating’ by Doudou and he was gone.
Pissed me off, though.

We got as much footage as we could, and hopefully I’d got a separate recording that they could use if the film was useless ?

Jally on ballophon and Haddy filming

What we’d taken previously had looked alright whilst still in the camera, but who knew what would show up when subjected to the professional editing suite ?
If it all comes out then who knows, but at least they might get something they could use on YouTube or Facebook, because that is what they need ?
Something to show the people of the world their talent.
So we do what we can and the band do what they can, and hopefully something good might come of it ?
That’s what we are attempting.
To empower the band to such an extent that they can empower others...
It comes with a responsibility, because what if others don’t think the same way as I do ?
Can’t see it happening like that, though...
These guys are much too good for that.
And if you don’t and can’t see any worth, then let’s just agree to differ ?
At least you gave it a fair shake.
Anyway, we’re trying in our own way, and that’s what it’s all about.

As we pack up there is more joshing with Jally as he wants money for his taxi back home.
To be fair to him, he lives in Sennagambia which is the farthest away of all of them, but his constant spongeing of money has earned him his nickname and they don’t call it him for nothing
May-ma-pas (It means I am asking money for my fare…)
He takes it all in good part however which is just as well because we all call him that, even Haddy and I who have been ‘conned’ previously…

Before we take our leave, Macumba asks us to come to his stall on the market where he presents me with a painting of a drummer and dancer done in the local style.

Apparently they all thought that was the appropriate painting, and then Doudou presents us with two wooden carved African masks, male and female, as a ‘thank you’ for our efforts. 

That came right out of the blue so I’m totally tongue-tied, but it definitely came from the heart and it’s difficult to see through the glazing eyeballs right now.
Hell !  That WAS emotional.
It pulls you every which way in your head and body and anybody thinking ‘What a clutz ?  How can something that simple affect you like that ?’ must seriously have a heart of stone.
I love those guys.
It totally blew my cynical veneer right out the window...
We stopped off at Westfield on the way back, for a couple of bits I needed for the meal tomorrow and… They had them in stock… And they had some beer… And they had some more of the tobacco brand that I smoke at a better price than I'd get at the airport duty free.
It had been a good day so far...