Friday, 22 March 2013


It’s wedding day minus one and we've just been down the street to view the new gates.
The fact that it’s seven-thirty in the morning has not escaped my notice.
There was an awful lot of banging and crashing going on and that does tend to grab your attention somewhat.

Aunt Rose
Aunt Rose has arrived from Senegal with husband Sebastian,

loaded down with what looks like the complete Senegalese farming output for the previous year.
How she got that lot across on the ferry is beyond serious comprehension ?
Aunt Rose will be staying with us in one of the girl’s rooms while Sebastian camps out with Sam, who runs a bar on the Westfield road.
Sebastian is retired now.
He used to be a Chief Fire Officer for the Senegalese Fire Service and he’s known Sam since they were in the army together, and that’s a lot of years.
I like Sam, he’s got a sense of humour …
His English is quite good and I met him at Aunt Rose’s when Haddy and I were on our honeymoon. Sam has become a wine connoisseur and a pretty good one at that.
He got me back into drinking Rioja after about a twenty year break.
Never buy a cheap one if you can afford better is Sam’s maxim on Rioja and he’s right.
The one he insisted we take home with us on our honeymoon slipped down like nectar.
Anyway, we get Aunt Rose into bed for a couple of hours rest, because although excited and looking forward to it, she’s obviously quite exhausted.
God knows when they got up, if they caught the six-thirty ferry ?

First job.
Sweep out the compound.

Ok, I’ll do it.

It takes some pressure off the kids who all have hair stylists and fittings to go to.

I know it’s going to become a talking point because it’s regarded as ‘women’s work’ over here, but if a job needs doing then get on and do it.
So I sweep and Haddy washes behind me.

I’m all for laying back and sitting on my arse, but you can always do that afterwards, and besides, you don’t have to get up and do things after you’ve sat down.
That always seemed the better option to me.

The guy doing the ‘official’ photography turns up and introduces himself.
Hopefully he won’t get in Haddy’s way and she in his ?
He’s got a mound of equipment which he seems to be able to carry around with him at most times…
I hope it all works ?
He spends half an hour checking light readings in the lounge and girls rooms as this is where they are going to be spending a fair bit of time, tomorrow.
Oh well, whatever ?
I’m off for a supermarket run and Haddy, in a rare burst of agreement, says that she’s coming too.
I think she needs a rest.
The strain is beginning to show in some of the things she is doing and saying, and I know she’s still a little worried about Sainabou, although, to be fair, she’s accepted it.
Still, this is Sainabou we’re talking about.


The ‘surrogate’ Mum of the family when Haddy was in the U.K.
A girl who is known throughout the village for being kind hearted, generous, and scrupulously honest.
A girl who has many friends, male and female alike, and, who has the respect of the mosque elders as well as the whole community.
That is Sainabou.
One of our kids.

Bloody supermarkets have sold out of a lot of the stuff I was after…
Ok, I’ll go back next week when the stock comes in.
It is a nuisance, but we’ll manage without.

A lot of the cooking is being done today because nobody is going to have time tomorrow.
Some has been done already and stored, but as is usual in these affairs, it only takes one person to say 'That is not enough' and another load goes in.

Some is being done at our compound,

some is being done over at Ebrima's Mother's compound, and some is being done at others compounds.
Either way, there's a lot of food being prepared.

Today is going past in a blur…
In the afternoon all the presents are taken out of their storage and gone through and looked at in the middle of the compound.
Gone through and looked at…
Makes it sound so simple, doesn’t it ?
The actuality is somewhat different.
For a start they fill the whole of the centre of the compound.
This leaves no room for anybody unless they are on the two sets of steps into the backs of the shops or in an alcove, and we don’t have too many of them.
As the presents are being distributed in a ‘fairly flat’ manner throughout the dwindling space of the compound floor, the griots turn up.
A more grasping and venal bunch of women I’ve never come across before in my whole life.
Loaded down with loud-hailers and praising Sainabou, Djibbi, Haddy, and anybody else they can think of, to get their message across.
And their message is ?
Give me money.
Everytime they mention somebody’s name, tradition dictates that the person pay them.
So on things like weddings you can imagine what’s going to occur, but if you do follow tradition then they will happily condemn you to a life of penury because they have no mercy.
Cue Randy Newman ‘It’s money that I love’
And you know what gives the lie to their poverty spiel ?
They’ve all got more gold in their teeth than I have in the bank.

After an hour of them sounding off through their loudhailers my nerves are beginning to fray and I ask Haddy if it is possible to chuck them out, physically if we have to ?
Ok, she was a bit shocked at the vehemence with which I’d asked, but those bloody loudhailers are seriously getting on my tits and there is literally nowhere to go to escape them.
And because they happen to know that I’m married to Haddy and I’m white, then it naturally follows that I’m rich and should share my good fortune with these poor African women…
Which means I am being continuously tapped up for money.
Unaffectionately known in my neck of the woods, as 'Screw the Toubab'
(Toubab = White Bloke/Woman/Person. Whatever ?)
They’ve had the ten Dalasi that I had in my pocket and I have no intention of getting more out of the safe to give them, so I can honestly say, there is completely fuck all chance of that..
I’d sooner give any spare change to the disabled guy at the bank cash machine who always tells me whether there is, a. money in it, b. whether it’s working, and c. to hope I have a good day.
He doesn’t ask for money, not from me anyway, but he does provide a valuable service to someone who is ostensibly a tourist in his country, and so he’s the guy that gets my spare change after the kids have bought sweets.
A couple of times we’ve seen him get knocked down and his money taken by a couple of chancers who have been seen off by us and a couple of the other bank customers.
The police seem to know it occurs, but it’s the code of the street.
Don’t rat on the bastards otherwise things could get ten times worse…

Finally, a respite…
‘Slice’ has arrived.
He’s going to miss the ceremony because he’s going to be working outside the Ministry of Justice as a ‘runner’ to those outside who need to see a specific person inside.
It’s an ‘unofficial’ job but he seems to be doing alright at it.
Runner ?
That’s a bit of a title to give a guy who has a withered leg and gets around on crutches, but who can still outplay most of the kids at football, but I’ve got a lot of time for ‘Slice’, he’s a mate and we do have a lot of stuff in common, not the least of which is the continuing drum education of Mariama.
His visit is a godsend and we commandeer a couple of seats in the lounge where we talk of man-stuff, the village, my trip to the mosque which apparently half the men in the village are still going on about, music, Mariama’s future in it, and possibilities of this, that and the other…
Twenty minutes of calm punctuated by bursts on loudhailers, which, when they interrupt us for the second time by sounding off in the lounge, ‘Slice’ tells them to do it outside because MEN ARE TALKING…
Gambian society being what it is, they have no real option other than to leave the lounge, but only to position themselves outside the door.
It’s better than nothing, but not by much.
Slice’ Father is the oldest man in the village, a venerable mosque elder and a figure of some wisdom and respect throughout.
He also has walking problems after being hit by a car and having his hip put out of joint.
He’s ninety two years old and now has to walk with a stick, but his mind is still sharp as a razor

Twenty minutes of calm in an oasis of noise…
Thanks mate, I needed that.

Finally the griots leave…
Trouble is, they’ll be back tomorrow and it’ll be ten times worse.
They’d literally ‘leeched’ themselves  to some of the compound’s guests.
If I could have one wish it would be to keep them out, but it’s tradition and they are definitely a bit ‘heavy’ on tradition out here.
As night falls, the all singing, all dancing, all banging everything that’ll make a noise party starts up again, but tonight I intend to try and get an early night which means leaving them to it after midnight.
When Awa gets back from work, she hands me one hundred dalasi in fives…
Apparently she’s gone to the bank and withdrawn the money for the griots tomorrow, otherwise we won’t have a bean left, let alone money…
I suggest to Haddy that we should put a sign on the gates to say that anybody disturbing the tranquillity of the compound will be exterminated and left out as crocodile bait ?
She thought I was joking.

Today has been one long anti-climax.
If it hasn’t then maybe I’m missing something ?

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