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...

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