Tuesday, 19 March 2013


Tomorrow dawns when Mosque-man wakes me up at five thirty.
The two younger ones are off to school by half past seven and we come to terms with what is actually occurring.
Awa is off to work at Ocean Bay, but Housainatou is at home.
Hassanatou is away on a college travel course staying at one of the hotels with the rest of her classmates and she’ll be away three days until Thursday evening.
I can see problems occurring over the wedding ending up on a course day, but we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.
Somehow within this next three weeks we are going to have to find time to film the Afro Manding guys, and I have to find time to teach Mariama the intricacies of mini-disk recording which is going to be the easy part of this jigsaw.
The four-track Tascam that I’ve brought out is a different beast altogether.
That is not a half hour job.
That would probably take about half a day at the minimum and then there’s the time I can get Mariama between school and homework, eating, doing all the washing up, and actually playing with her friends…
That could prove a little difficult.
The way things are being spoken about right now, it could prove nigh on impossible but we’ll see.

Haddy has turned into a whirlwind…
She’s organising everything.
All of the wedding arrangements on our side, plus a new roof for the compound house as the current one is beginning to leak and won’t stand up to another rainy season…
Then there’s the compound floor, new gates for the compound since a stolen car had run into the old ones and now they won’t close properly, and…
The mango tree which caused the leaky roof is going to have to be chopped…

Princess, the family cat, on one of her 'hunting sprees' waiting for prey in the mango tree.
Sorry to all the ‘Save the Planet’ lot, but mango trees have acidic leaves and compound houses have metal roofing so it’s not an ideal scenario.

It’s chaos around the compound.
We have the initial meeting with the groom’s representatives and that seemed to go alright…
Well, it did from our perspective.

Buba' Sainey and the Imam.

Buba’ Sainey did all the talking, and with the Imam at his elbow, didn’t give an inch.

 The date has been set although that could be changed if needed and now it all depends upon his side coming up with the goods.

Haddy Sonko  turns up at the compound after school to show Auntie Haddy and Uncle Chris her new batiks.

Haddy Sonko with batiks.

Named for her Aunt, my wife, she’s a lovely girl and has an artist’s eye for things.
And because her batik is adjudged one of the best, she has actually been allowed to take it home from school.
This is a rare occurrence in that most of them just go into a child’s work folder to be judged later in end of term examinations, but not this time.
Her work is adjudged to be of a standard that she can replicate and so she has been allowed to remove it.
Very talented, but she wants to work in a market that is already overflowing with others.

All you can do is try and give her the confidence that she’s going to need to make it.
It’s only going to take one lucky break and she could be designing for one of the fashion houses, but how do you get the fashion house buyers to The Gambia ?
That’s the big problem in this country for those with talent.
The Gambia isn’t at the top of their priorities.
New York, Milan, Paris and London but not Banjul.
But… She really is that good, and that makes it even more tragic.
Go for it, Haddy.

Finally we get to give out some of the clothes to our kids.

Mariama looks very smart in her approximately one size too large suit, but the way she’s growing it won’t be that long before it fits perfectly.
T-shirts, skirts, jeans, smart work tops for the twins, and a bunch of tops and dresses for Jalika.

As wedding arrangements go it’s so far so good until we hear back from Hassanatou and Amadou and they both inform us that because of work and college they can’t make the date and so we can change it.
I didn’t add the ‘Or else’ but that can definitely be implied.
Friday is now changed to Sunday.
Now we have a new date and they have another two days to come up with the money and the goods.

Can I get a break with Haddy ?
This needs doing, that needs doing…
We said we’d film the guys in the band and so can we put one day aside for that, plus what about taking the younger ones swimming at the hotel ?
C’mon… Give us a break ?
A quick trip into Banjul to see Uncle Pa, and and let the band know that we’re here and we are sorting out a place for filming.
We walk into the craft market by the back way and totally freak out Hadim who was definitely not expecting us.

'Brothers' in arms... Hadim and me. He played drums for me at our first Gambian gig.
It surprised us too, as it’s the first time we’ve ever found him at his stall.
Since the banking collapse hit Africa about two years after it had hit in The West, business has not been good.
Less tourists and so less chance to eke out a living, but they all persevere.
We all walk over to find Macumba, the band’s leader, to tell him the news and he seems pleased we are back.
They’ve lost their usual rehearsal spaces in the recession with businesses going down everywhere, and places that were free now have to be rented.
I definitely understand that.
Back home it’s happening to my friends, too.
He seems pleased that we’re working on getting the band filmed.
These guys need YouTube and Facebook and the other music sites.
They need to get their music out there.

Finally a day is consented to with Mariama and Jalika and so we book into The African Village for a couple of days.
No yelling at everybody, no questions every thirty seconds and no more vanishing for half a day leaving me in total limbo.
Mariama is still the cheeky but not so little now drum-monster that she was when last we saw her, but Jalika has absolutely blossomed.
Apparently she and Omar have come to an understanding…

To whit: Omar isn’t spiteful toward her and so Jalika doesn’t punch his lights out.
Seems a reasonable understanding to me ?
The thing is, she still hates bullying and won’t let anybody do it to her or anybody else around the compound.
There have apparently been enough sore noses, mouths, eyes and testicles for her way to become the norm.
Well that’s sorted then.
On the other hand she has also come on leaps and bounds at school.
She now has the confidence that she lacked last year and she seems to be popular with all the other local kids, and her English, bearing in mind a couple of years ago she couldn’t speak any, is brilliant and she’ll jabber away quite happily to me in English, only switching to Mandinka, Wolof, Jola or Fula’ if needs be when interrupted by somebody else, then she’s back to English again.
Give her a couple of years and she’ll probably be the best English speaker in the house, and Awa, Amadou and the twins are great now, but in a couple of years Jalika will probably overtake them all.
She’s only nine currently so she definitely has time on her side.

Ali has arrived from Casamance.

He is just passing through, he's not staying.
He's involved in music about as much as I am, and works with a collective in Casamance.
Rap, reggae and a bit of Hip-Hop are Ali's bag and he's made contact with a French rapper who comes out to visit and to play with them sometimes.
He gives me a copy of a video that they have just had filmed.
Good one.
It's basic, but it has the important points down.
These guys can play together and it all fits together and we promise to stay in touch after the wedding.
When he's not playing music, he makes bracelets, earrings and necklaces, some of which are very intricate indeed.

Haddy gets all her 'Name' bracelets from Ali.
(So if she's given you one, and there's a few out there who have been, now you know who makes them, ok ?)

Finally we’ve got a night in the African Village hotel on our own and we’ll have the kids delivered to us in the morning.
Next morning I can finally get rid of the recipe cards which I’ve brought over for Harriet, one of the ‘early’ cooks who wasn’t on shift when we turned up in the afternoon.
Last time we were out she said she wanted to learn more ‘Western’ dishes so I’ve brought her out about two hundred recipe cards.
Some are easy and some aren’t but that’s cooking for you.
She seemed pleased as punch when she realised what they were, so definitely ‘Job Done’.
Then, immediately after we’ve finished breakfast, the kids turn up…


No… You can’t get straight in the pool, you’ll have to wait an hour while my food goes down.


But finally… Armbands on and they’re in.
Both of them seem to love the water and get a lot of pleasure just trying to swim.

Mariama, armbands off.
Mariama now has total confidence in the water so long as she has her armbands on and slightly less without them,

Jalika, armbands on
and Jalika, once she’s in, is not that far behind her.

They’d be in there all day if we let them, but even they have to vacate it for lunch and another enforced hour after they’ve eaten.

Common sense prevails around water, especially with a pair of children who can float but can’t swim.

They seem to enjoy themselves and I relax a bit, but Haddy is fielding ‘phone calls and texts most of the day, although she does stop for ten minutes to exchange mutual insults with Ousman, the hotel’s chief of security.

Honestly… Serrere’s and Jola’s…
Like oil and water.

At one point a monkey decides to invade the garden until one of the hotel’s cats decides to stalk it.
Bearing in mind the size of the monkey and the size of the cat there is only going to be one winner.
Unfortunately the cat hasn’t realised this.
She’s just a bit miffed that something else has invaded her begging space…
Oh well, it was fun to watch.

One last coffee and at half past five ‘Tufa is going to pick us up and we’re going back to the compound to see what’s occurred in our absence ?
More overnight guests have arrived.
Haddy and I are coming back to the hotel for some peace and quiet later.
Peace and quiet ?
Huh !
We got back just in time for the hotel’s ‘entertainment’
But to be fair, they weren't bad.
Apparently it was Mandinka singing ?
Totally different to the Afro Manding guys.
It sounded more cabaret style to me.
I'll ask the experts when I see them.

Our second day at the hotel has now become a second breakfast only.
We are off to Sainyang in the morning for Sainabou’s hen party.


Poor old Amadou and Hassanatou are going to miss it, but we do what we can, bearing in mind two of the family are missing.
This then, is ‘The Extended Family’.
A mixed bunch of Sainabou’s family and friends from all over.

This 'Hen Party' was going to be a first for me as I've never been to one before.
Over in The West the sexes don't mix...
Strange, isn't it ?
Aliou Bah
Aliou Bah,

Mariatou, Fat Cham (Who isn’t actually fat, it’s short for Fatou),  

Jally Bakary and Fat Cham




Jally Bakary, Haddy, me, Mariama, Jalika and more.
Of course as soon as we arrive Mariama and Jalika want to go in the sea…
You’ll have to wait until we’re all here, kids.
It never stops.

Haddy being chatted up by one of the local lads who wanted her Cropredy t-shirt,

and the noisiest game of Beach Ludo that I’ve ever seen.

Lunchtime, and I had the largest portion of fish I’d ever been served in my life.

It was absolutely delicious.

Aliou Bah can definitely cook.

For those who have never tried it, it’s quite sweet tasting and along with the huge vegetable garden (salad) it was served with, managed to defeat me.

Mariama, with Jalika’s help, managed to eat most of the biscuits and everybody had a good time.

The dancing was hilarious and at one point we managed to blag a drum from one of the neighbouring establishments for Mariama, but she’d only had it five minutes when the lads commandeered it.
Lamin with drum

It must be said, it was a great day.
Sainabou got the traditional ‘extended family’ drenching, which she wasn’t actually ready for, by the guys, and all in all it was a really nice and happy day.
The only blot on the day was our realisation that Fatou’s Father , who has currently leased the bar from his daughter, is running the place into the ground.
He has no idea what he’s losing out on.
All he wants is money and he won’t replace anything he breaks or ‘borrows’.
Steals is a more honest word than borrows but what the hell, I have to be a little circumspect.
Fatou is going to be more than a little bit upset when she sees the evidence, I reckon ?


And she will be, as Haddy has filmed the whole day.

Round about seven in the evening it’s beginning to turn into dusk and so we all pile into the 4x4 and ‘Tufa’s taxi.
Poor old ‘Tufa had missed the whole event because he’d been working all day.

When we got back we were in the middle of our first power cut and the first of our many arrivals who were about to descend upon us like a plague of locusts…
What’s more, politeness dictates we have to feed them.
The compound is now filling up with people faster than the Titanic’s engine room.
We now have a couple of guests from Casamance and Senegal camped on the floor of one of Haddy’s shops on their foam bedrolls and more are expected…
It's nearly two am when we finally crawl into bed.

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