Tuesday, 11 November 2014


So there we were…
Ready to leave again, except we weren’t really.
We’re going to miss the kids, it’s as simple as that.
There is something intrinsically wrong with a system that only allows one-way traffic.
We have to fly two thousand, nine hundred miles to see our children for the price of an air ticket and that is apparently no problem ???
There is the small matter of over two hundred and fifty pounds plus each on a six hundred pound ticket going toward ‘Green Taxes’ which is just one more reason that ‘The Greens’ are NEVER going to get my vote because there are sod-all other countries doing it, but…
It doesn’t work in reverse.
If the kids want to come and see us then they have to pay approximately the same, plus they have to fill in the form and pay for a visa to do it.
No matter that we support them, pay for their food, schooling and living expenses, they still have to pay our government for the privilege of doing so and this visa lasts six months.
In that time they can do a small number of things but most are denied them.
You can always read the damn documentation for yourselves…
Of course if they were European children then they can come here without a visa and their families can do anything they choose, including claim all the benefits that our own citizens receive and then jump in front of our own social housing queue !!!
And all because Gordon Brown signed a treaty ?
There is seriously something wrong with that system, not least because it is discriminatory and the UK government could be accused of running an ‘Apartheid’ system on immigration.
Think I’m joking ?
Ok, consider this…
Pre nineteen ninety seven we had a normal immigration system.
It seemed to work pretty much like every other country’s, in that if you had relatives in the UK then you could join them and there wasn’t too much of a problem doing so.
When the Labour government under Tony B’liar came to power he flung open the borders to all and sundry.
(Ok, it’s a bit simplistic but it IS accurate)
You also have to remember that back then the UK saw a rise in membership of the British National Party or B.N.P.
This so-called ‘political party’ called for an end to immigration and the repatriation of every black and brown person in the country.
Which was a bit silly in that many of those they wanted repatriated were actually second, third and fourth generation British !!!
They had been born in the UK and were as English, Scots, Irish or Welsh as I am.
The reality of living through those times and the arguments that ensued are still reverberating to this day.
So B'liar and his successor Gordon Brown threw open the UK’s borders to all and sundry, but what they did not do was make it a condition of entry that these new entries were not entitled to the UK’s benefit system until they had been in the country for a few years.
This was the stumbling block and one that the B.N.P. capitalised on.
All these black and brown immigrants whose ideas, traditions and culture were sometimes diametrically opposed to the UK’s were being funded by the population of the United Kingdom and that is where the B.N.P. actually scored the point that is still causing the problems that my own family face today.
The Labour Party’s rationale had been that all these immigrants were going to be so pleased to be there and receiving the same benefits and social security as every other citizen that they would show their gratitude by voting for them ad-infinitum.
Unfortunately, the general population weren’t exactly enamoured of the idea.
But Labour, choosing the moral high ground, decided to brand everybody who queried what was going on, a racist.
What was THAT Gordon Brown quote again ?
'Bigot' wasn’t it ?
And lurking in the background was Europe…
Most of whose countries do not have the same generous benefit system as the UK.
So when Gordon Brown signed away many of the decisions to be taken by the UK government to a European Union, there were many people who were not terribly impressed.
But he signed it KNOWING that it would bring even more immigration, because now we were a member, everybody in the European Union can move freely between their member states and live (and claim benefits) wherever they reside.
And in the background we still have the B.N.P…
But like any other small club that wants to get bigger, the European Union kept taking on more members and some of those were not exactly up to par on their own benefit systems.
And what colour were over ninety per-cent of these new immigrants from Europe ?
(You can check out the percentages just as I did)
And these people do not need documentation.
These people could just turn up, and as a country we could not turn down any request for benefits or even housing even though they already had one somewhere else.
And as the country was swamped by white immigration, the demographic slowly changed back to predominantly white and the B.N.P. lost its power to spread its racist doctrine.
Think about it.
It’s a bloody good trick if you can get away with it ?   
But they couldn’t, and after Gordon Brown had sold off the UK’s gold reserves at a fraction of their worth, plundered everybody’s pension fund to prop up his failed economy, presided over the banking collapse and tried to cover up the scandal of M.P’s expenses, most people had had enough and the worst and most venal government this country has ever had since the days of the ‘Rotten Boroughs’ were voted out.
And in came the Tories…
Assisted by the Liberal Democrats so as to gain a larger majority in parliament, we now had a coalition.
And that’s where OUR troubles really began, because all the main political parties wanted to remain members of the European Union !!!
And so up went the prices of visas to all the countries that needed them while the Europeans all arrived here for free.
Every year the price would be increased and every year even more obstacles would be put in people’s way.
The B.N.P. was now not much more than a bunch of posturing racists but they had been superseded by another right-wing organisation, The English Defence League.
These people just wanted all immigration stopped, especially from the posturing Muslim countries and they were beginning to cause questions to be asked in parliament.
And waiting in the wings was U.K.I.P. The United Kingdom Independence Party who wanted us OUT of Europe. 
The infrastructure of the country was now seriously overloaded by immigration caused by being in the European Union.
Because white people who don’t even have to speak English are pouring into the country, and black people who DO have to speak English have to fill in forms and take ‘Englishness’ tests before they are allowed to stay, the whole demographic of the country is changing.
Haddy and I have now become third class citizens in my country.
She is not allowed the benefits that the Europeans are given because she is African and/or Black.
She cannot buy a UK passport like the Russian and Chinese oligarchs are being offered.
She has to pay to go through a series of tests before she is even allowed to stay in the country, despite us being married, despite us both having jobs and not relying on government handouts, and we are both of us definitely being denied a family life because all our taxes go towards funding the European immigrants and their children as opposed to our own…
And does any political party want to cry foul ?
Do they fuck !!!
They all want to stay in Europe so they are quite happy to let the situation continue as it is.
The biggest irony of all is that both the Liberal Democrats and the Labour Party would be the first to start screaming if it were happening in any other country (South Africa springs to mind…) but because the Lib/Dems want to continue to stay in power and the Labour Party have still yet to come to terms with the European monster they have unleashed, they are both more than happy to remain silent on the issue.
(And their silence IS deafening, isn't it ?)
To put it plainly, the U.K. now has a system of  ‘whites in’ and ‘blacks out’, and if that upsets you then it’s tough shit because YOU VOTED FOR IT.
Anybody who voted Tory, Labour or Liberal Democrat in the last election is equally guilty.
A friend asked me once, would I betray my country ?
Well since my country has already betrayed me, I’m not really sure how to answer that question…
I have already said it would be nice to live in a country where EVERYBODY was treated the same without fear or favour, but I don’t believe it will ever happen in the UK.
There are far too many gutless cunts in both the opposition and government to allow that scenario to occur, and far too much fawning obeisance to other people’s lifestyles.
And all this 'Apartheid' shit was what we’d be flying back to.
It’s not really that impressive, is it ?

So we said goodbye to everybody first thing in the morning as Housai’ and Awa went off to work and Mariama and Jalika went off to school.
Hassa’ would be accompanying us to Latrikunda at the top of the road when we left at midday, and Amadou would be ‘phoned later because he’s at work too.
A quick walk around the area to say goodbye to our friends and our time was up, so it’s into the taxi and away to the airport.
I took some film on the way, so if you’ve never seen what it looks like in The Gambia, then you can watch this.
It’s only predominantly the right hand side of the road on the way, but it will give you some idea...
Did you bother to watch it ?
Going back to that 'far too much fawning obeisance' quote a few lines back, did you notice what the women were wearing ?
Yeah, I do, all the time, which is why I filmed it.
I want people to see for themselves.
The vast majority of women DO NOT wear the bloody things !!!
So to be told by those Guardian reading Liberal fuckwits in the UK that I'm a racist for mentioning the FACT that they don't, and why would anybody want to unless they lived on a building site covered with sand, is a little unhelpful to say the least... And a downright lie of the worst kind.
I wish those who make up these claims would check their facts before they made those sort of accusations, because the truth is actually out there and it's not that hard to find...
It's just being used as a political tool so some people can get their own way.
('Help... Help... I'm being oppressed...')
It would be funny if it wasn't taken so seriously by our media and our 'Establishment'.
The fact is, outside of about four countries it's total bollocks.

So we got to the airport and checked in.
Hit the duty free shop for a couple of bottles of grade A ‘Anejo’ (that’s top of the range tequila to you) and we’re done.
Now it’s time for a baguette and cup of tea at Luigi’s, sitting outside awaiting our flight.
Listening to the other passengers at the tables, it would seem that they all enjoyed their stay, and I’m glad.
The Gambia might be a small country, but it has a lot going for it if only it could get the investment.
Unfortunately, for various reasons, it doesn’t look as if it’s on its way which is a shame.
So tourism is its only real source of foreign currency coming in.
Tony, one of the guys I work with, had been twice now with his family and they were confirmed fans after their first trip, so it must have something going for it ?
One day people will get wise and realise the country does have opportunities.

The flight back was uneventful as usual, but all the fun usually begins after we touch down.
First there’s the usual half mile walk to Immigration control and then we split into two parts.
I go through one system (the E.U. one) and Haddy goes through the second-class citizen one
You can tell the way it works in that there are about ten officers dealing with E.U. passport holders and only the one dealing with non E.U.
This obviously causes a massive build-up on her side which won’t abate until they can get more officers over there, and that won’t happen until all us E.U types have been processed.
I just sit in a convenient chair watching the proceedings until she’s through, usually being quizzed every ten minutes by an immigration officer asking why I’m hanging about with a very bored and pissed off look on my face ?
The words ‘I’m waiting for my wife, she’s in your second-class citizen queue’ usually get me an understanding grimace from the officer concerned.
But finally she’s through, so now let’s collect our luggage and hit the ‘red zone’ once again.
Declare the five boxes of tobacco, declare the tequila and brandy, and that’s our lot.
We walk out past those who have fucked up in going through the ‘nothing to declare’ green zone.
The guy whose luggage has shown up some cellophane packages is not too happy, he’s probably facing about five years inside but that’s his problem.
With all the security and scanners in place now, you’d think that a bit of common sense would prevail, but apparently not ?
And we’re out.
And it’s a lot cooler than it was in The Gambia…
(Well it would be, it’s past midnight)
Catch the coach back to where we parked the car, and it’s back home via the M.25 which thankfully is an easy run at that time of night.
We get in at about half past three, dump the luggage and sleep.
Haddy is not working tomorrow, but I am...
At least it's the late shift.

Thursday, 25 September 2014


It was now nearly time to leave.
For three weeks of seeing the family and friends and getting a few things sorted out it had certainly been an eventful break.
And we HAD actually managed to get a few things sorted out and had a little bit of fun along the way and you can’t really ask more from life than that.
But all good things eventually come to an end and ours was rapidly approaching because we were in our last week and the two youngest had gone back to school, but before we left I had one more job to do.

Before we’d arrived in The Gambia we’d got Mariama and Jalika to go and see their headmistress at Gola Fortunate and ask if she minded running a little competition between all the children who had contributed toward the Rhythms of The World backdrop that they had created for us, and she had been happy to do so.
One of the things Rhythms does on a regular basis is sell out of children’s sized t-shirts and we’d managed to get hold of five of them before they had done so.
Two were going to Mariama and Jalika, but the other three would be going to the school as prizes.
There was going to be one question only and the best three answers in the Headmistresses opinion would be the three winners.
The competition was held while we were in The Gambia, the three winners had been adjudged, and now it was time to present the prizes.
The question that we’d asked the children was ‘Why do you think it is important that music brings the world together ?’
And so early in the morning of our second to last day we were walking up to Gola Fortunate once again.

This time we’d given them the first hour and so we’d see the headmistress first and ask her how she wanted to do it. Whether in the classrooms or in her office ?
The Headmistress decided on her office, and sent a runner to fetch the first winner.

When she turned up the poor lass thought she’d done something wrong, but seeing us there as well hopefully put her mind at rest ?
Our second winner was unfortunately not at school that day, but our third winner was, and so we praised her also and said thank you very much for being part of the whole Rhythms of The World thing.

Their contribution would be gracing the stage again next year so long as we had a festival and although they were only rumours, it did look like it was actually going to happen again as a proper festival and not the three gigs we had this year.
We took a few pictures with everybody’s permission and the Headmistress got us copies of the winning entries and I have to admit I was impressed with their efforts.
Ok, I’m writing this after the event from notes I took at the time, but you have to admit they came pretty close to what it’s all about.

Here’s Ida Secka’s winning entry:

Here’s Amie Camara’s winning entry:

And here’s Amie Ceesay’s winning entry:

Do you notice anything strange ?
The winners were all girls.
I’m guessing that had the question been asked in the UK or the USA or Japan, or most of Europe even, then we’d have had at least one boy or possibly two among them ?
The whole music thing is definitely predominantly male based in the UK although the women do come through occasionally.
It’s more prevalent in the USA because a. The country is a lot larger, and b. The genres are authentic to the differing regions and so girls growing up learning their family’s instruments are a lot more common.  
And before we get into arguments on the subject, I’m talking about musicians, and NOT winners of television talent shows.
When did a real group or a real singer/songwriter ever win one of those ?
You could probably count them on the fingers of one hand after you’ve had an industrial accident !
Too cynical ?
I don’t think so.
So what I was so pleased about is that our three winners had obviously thought about the question that we had posed.
Out in The Gambia, being a musician was definitely a male preserve.
There were some outstanding female musicians, but they were very few and most of those were from griot families.
We’d had one at Rhythms a year ago.
Sona Jobarteh.
Probably the world’s foremost female kora player.
But Sona comes from a griot family and so it will be in her genetic makeup.
Her Father and Uncles are all musicians too.
So having three little girls win our competition was a definite eye-opener.
The times are definitely a’changing because young girls are still expected to defer to the male members of their families.
I’d like to see Amadou try that on with his sisters.
The results could be quite entertaining…
And music was not even part of the Gambian school curriculum.
But with the internet revolution it was now available to all.
No… Things are changing.
I can’t speak for any of the other countries in the African continent but Gambian kids listen, and they know what they like.
And it’s not just Madonna or Rhiannon or the big hitters either, they listen to things that we might take for granted, and it’s not like they have adventurous radio stations, they don’t.
The one that does play western music is from 9am until 12.00midday and I’m guessing it’s a sop for the tourist industry ?
The rest is rap, hip-hop and reggae with a smattering of African music.
So do the math’.
The Gambia is just one small country in Africa but the kids know who Bruce Springsteen is, and they know who Dolly Parton is, and I’m not just talking about our family either.
Amadou had asked for a cd of an Irish folkie type band that I’d never even heard of.
Why ?
Because he knew somebody who had mentioned they liked them, looked them up himself and decided that yes, they were a band for him.
At least I’d heard of the singer that Hassanatou had asked for, even though I hadn’t a clue what she sounded like ?
(New Country should you want the genre ?)
Now multiply that by the amount of children in Africa with access to the internet.
You can see what I’m getting at here…
The times are a’changing because they are not cut off any more.
So yeah, I’m pleased with our winning entries, pleased that the girls came out on top, and even more pleased that they felt that they could compete as equals.
Because in my wife’s time that would not have occurred.

After the presentations the Headmistress told us about our pair.
Apparently Mariama’s name has been put forward for Head Girl ?
This is a bit of a worry because our little drum monster knows all the dodges, and so the Headmistress thinks that she’d be better off as Assistant Head Girl helping out the Head Girl.
She has a valid point, and when I said (and explained) ‘You mean set a poacher to catch a poacher’ ?
She said ‘Exactly that’.
Haddy and I just looked at each other and laughed…
That sounds like the Mariama we know and love.
She’d also not gone in for the competition.
When she was asked why, she’d replied that she already had that t-shirt and she didn’t think it fair that she might get another one if she’d won it, and so she’d ruled herself out.
Haddy and I just looked at each other…
That definitely sounded like Mariama.
Her sense of what is right and what is wrong does sometimes put a few adults we could name to shame. 

As for Jalika, she was getting more confident in joining in everything.
She was still quiet.
(Very quiet compared to Mariama)
But her quietness was deceptive.
She took things in and thought about them before she committed herself.
And her French was amazing.
She’d really taken to it, pleasing her teacher immensely.
It had been a slow haul but she was beginning to get the hang of this learning business.
She hadn’t thumped anybody for ages, so they were all hoping that her earlier ripostes to those she felt threatened by were behind her ?
I’m not sure that’s entirely accurate, bearing in mind what had occurred in the last week, but I’m happy to go along with it. 
So, a quick trip to see the pair of them in their classes and a few more photographs and that was it.
Mariama as Head Girl or Assistant Head Girl ?
Oh well, it’s her last year at Gola Fortunate.
She will be going to a Senior School next September and that will be an interesting time…
The fact that the Headmistress trusted her enough to consider her nomination would hold her in good stead when she changed.
I think Haddy and I need to have a chat about her future because I don’t know enough about the Gambian school system.
The only thing I do know is that St Theresa’s is regarded as one of the best if not the best in the country ?
But like everything else, times change…
Now let’s try and have a relaxing time for the rest of the day, shall we ?

We walked slowly home and discussed the children.
Haddy wasn’t sure about St Theresa’s any more.
She thought maybe St Peter’s was a better bet for Mariama ?
I suppose we’ll have to find out nearer the event ?
When she told me where St Peter’s was, I didn’t believe her.
It’s a two taxi ride, and it’s a good few miles away off the main road leading to the airport.
Still, nothing we can do about it now and so it’s home to a cup of tea, I reckon ?
We spent the rest of the morning and early afternoon shelling even more peanuts.
Thankfully it had been a bumper crop this year and it seemed every family we knew had loads of them.
There certainly seemed to be enough to go round.
And then round about two in the afternoon, Haddy went inside, and left me to change the music on the computer.
I did, and stuck Rokia Traore on.
Rockia is a Malian singer/songwriter and plays guitar a bit.
She’s a striking looking woman with her man style short hair and looks like she could have been a top model in another life.
Anyway, Google her up and play something if you’ve never heard of her before, I think you might find it worth it ?
Screw it !
Just click on the link below to a one hour forty minute gig and it’s done.
The album I was playing was entitled ‘Tchamantche’, and now try and picture this…
I’m sitting on a mat in the middle of the compound.
Hassanatou is over by the kitchen sorting out some food, and Haddy is sitting inside the house when this old lady (probably about sixty to seventy but it’s sometimes difficult to work out, out there) came in through our front gates and made straight for me.
I stood up and motioned her to take one of the chairs scattered about, but before she sat she started talking…
And I didn’t recognise the language.
When the locals speak in any of the local languages they tend to use one predominantly and mix in a few from the others if they want specific meanings but this certainly wasn’t one of them and even I knew that.
It sounded like there was a bit of French in there, but I couldn’t be sure ?
So, stumped, I said ‘wait there’ and went to fetch Haddy.
Haddy came out and asked the old girl inside where she insisted on sitting on the floor rather than a chair and started shelling nuts…
See… Everybody does it.
Anyway, it turns out that this lady has been in The Gambia for just over a year and is a refugee from the Islamic Taliban in Mali.
Things started getting a bit fierce down her way and rather than stay and be terrorised by a different form of Islam than the one she’d grown up with, her family had scattered and she’d found herself in The Gambia.
So imagine her surprise while walking up to the main road from Fajikunda to hear Malian music coming from one of the compounds, and being played by ‘un blanc’ as well ?
She literally thought she was dreaming.
So would we mind if she stayed and listened to the music as she had not heard any of her own country’s music for a long time.
She was happy to help shell nuts while she was doing so if we’d let her  ?
Hey !
What can you say ?
Haddy tried offering her a drink but she only wanted a few sips of water.
I asked her via Haddy if she passed this way often, as the family did have some Malian music in the house, and were somebody to be in, then I’m sure nobody would mind if the kids put it on so that she could listen to a bit more ?
But no…
She didn’t feel able to do that as it would be imposing.
Just as Rokia’s cd was finishing I switched her to Toumani Diabate and that’s when her tears started…
There was nothing wrong, it had just been a very emotional afternoon for her.
This had been the sort of music that she knew throughout her whole body.
About twenty minutes later Mariama and Jalika came back from school and before she went in to change, Mariama stopped to see who was playing.
And indoors to change they both went.
Within seconds the pair of them are out again, Mariama holding her Mother’s copy of another Toumani cd, and a copy of Fatoumata Diawara’s as well.
‘Uncle Chris, play these as well…’
‘You know what they are then’ ?
‘Everybody knows who they are…’
I’m not sure that’s particularly true, but within this family it’s a possible if not a probable.
The next thing we know is that the two little one’s are talking to the old lady in French and she’s gabbling away like a good’un.
About ten minutes later she got up to leave us.
Haddy asked her to stay for some food but she wouldn’t, and told her that she had imposed on us long enough and she was leaving now, but thank you for the afternoon as it had meant a lot to her…
And she left.
That wasn’t just odd, that was totally surreal.
I wonder if we’ll ever see her again ?
I’d like to think she might come back again sometime, but who knows.
We’ll have to wait and see ?
What was it our Rhythms winners had written ?
Music brings happiness ?
Music brings people together ?
They’d got that bang on the button !

It had been a good day. 


Tuesday, 23 September 2014


Well we all woke up early and that’s a fact.
You can’t really not when you’ve got a small mosque about two hundred yards away and a quite large one about four hundred yards away.
The small one starts the call to prayers at five-thirty and they are louder than the larger one so anybody looking to sleep in would probably need ear-muffs, but at least it means we get first go in the shower for the hot water.
We had asked everybody over the course of the previous week to PLEASE not hang about in the morning because we would be at certain places along the route to pick people up at particular times, but there’s always going to be one who doesn’t make it and has to get there under their own power.
A quick breakfast and before you can turn around Ida is here from over the road.
I’m not sure how well the plates got washed up by the smaller contingent of the family but then we can always yell at them tomorrow !!!
The people carrier is here with the guys so numbers two to seven have just been accomplished.

Amadou will be at the top of the road and Fat’ Cham is nowhere in sight.

Jali Bakary and Mariettou we pick up further along on the road to Sanyang where we will be stopping for provisions.

Right, the gang is nearly all here, so let’s get it on…
Amadou is now in, and Jali and Mariettou are waiting for us outside the small provision shop at Chinchu Alagie.

It’s a bit of a nuisance the kids not having armbands for the sea having left them in a taxi on a previous occasion, but it can’t be helped and since we are officially about a month outside the holiday season we can’t expect any of the shops to have any.
It just means that I’m going to be one bruised and scratched Dad after going in with them.
If any of the others go in I know it’ll be later in the afternoon but children who see water ALWAYS seem to want to get in it as soon as they can, and ours are no exception.
Of course when the first big wave hits then they’ll all grab me to hang on to…
Hence the bruises.

While we’re at Tanje (pronounced tan-gee, as in whiz) Amadou asks if I know the track that he’s been blasting into his ears via his headphones ?
It’s definitely something that both his Mother and I have been known to blast out on occasions, and I suppose singing the chorus back at him gave the game away somewhat…
‘Honey you shake, I’ll rattle, we can roll on down the line… See if we can’t get in touch with a very close friend of mine… ‘
Well that’s all you’re getting, so do you know what it is ?
It’s a ‘classic’ album track from the second album.
Any fan of ‘Classic Rock’ from the nineteen seventies should be able to place it and I can’t be arsed to tell you, but bless him, Amadou thinks it’s the dog’s dangly bits (I’m being polite, ok ?) and he’s really got into it.
Funny how some artists just seem to get under people’s skin ?
So far we’ve got Mum, Mariama and Amadou into this guy’s music and they all like different songs, but that’s the great thing about music.
It crosses all borders of country, race, colour, religion, and any other damned obstacle that people have a habit of throwing in your way as we all stagger blindly from one world crisis to another…
It turns out Amadou has got the complete double greatest hits cd on his iPod.
See… Our family have good taste.
If you can’t get the track from the chorus then you’re either no rock fan or far too young,  and you can google it if you want the artist, cos I’m not an information service for ‘Failed Rock fans…’
Oh, I like that.
Failed Rock fans.
Great expression, and I might have to use it again sometime ?
That’s pissed off a few of you, no doubt ?
Oh well… Tough !
Jeezus H !!!
Haddy has just come around the corner with probably the largest melon I have literally ever seen in my life ?
Bloody thing is gonna need a seat of its own at that size ?
Ok, stash the melon.
Buy a bit more…
Still no children’s armbands or even rings but at least we tried.
Not far to go now because you can actually see Sanyang from the fish market.
And we’re there.
Bumping along the sandy track down to Leybato…

First things first and the younger ones insist on getting changed because they want to go swimming.

They’ll have to wait for about an hour before we let them in as I have a couple of jobs to do in the way of helping with the food.

So after a bit of lazing about the first game of Ludo started up...

Of course as soon as we turn up, the dogs materialise also.

Now there are two ways of looking at the dogs on the beach if you’re a tourist.
All the guidebooks tell you the sensible one and usually we do the other.
If anything was to go wrong then yes, it’ll be down to us, but so far it hasn’t and so long as we keep being kind then there really is no reason to think that it would.
Ok, let’s give you the gen and you can make your own minds up ?
The guidebooks tell you that you must stay away from the dogs who roam the beaches because they have turned feral, will probably bite because they’ve been badly treated and could have rabies ?
This is all true.
Any one of those could be true, if not all of them ?
However, since we’ve been coming here we have seen about three families go from young dog to adulthood.
They don’t tend to last long because the snakes go for their puppies and the adults tend to die defending the pups.
Originally they will have been beaten and cut by the local beach dwellers including the bumsters and the fishermen.
Some will have their tails cut off and some their ears, but they do respond to kindness.
When I first started feeding them back when Haddy’s eldest daughter Fatou was working here she nearly had a pink fit when I asked for a bowl of water for the dogs and all the food that we would otherwise have thrown away to feed them.
I figured that if we fed them then they’d hang about and keep the rat population away ?
And it worked, they did.
At the time we were the only beach bar without a rat problem because Fatou followed my lead and kept them fed and watered.

Unfortunately, now that her Father has let it go to rack and ruin after she and Haddy made a success of it we might have to do it all over again, but while we are here we will keep our side of the bargain.

And it seems to work.
These dogs ARE feral and there’s no doubt about that, but they respond to kindness.
None of our lot will chase them away or beat them AND they can have a fresh drink of water without going into the scrubland and mixing it with the snakes, AND, they seem to appreciate it ?
Obviously I’m not suggesting that you ‘diss’ the guidebook’s advice, but surely a better way is just to be friendly ?
They got little of that from their original owners and that’s for sure.
If in doubt then stay away is good advice, but what if you have no doubts ?
I know it sounds strange but I’m glad they are there and that they come back to see us when we arrive.
The beach is a few miles long so they could range anywhere, but they seem to like Leybato and that’s fine with us.

Even our Gambian guys don’t chase them away now.
It’s a small thing in the grand scheme of things but I think we’re doing the right thing.
Only time will tell.
Anyway, first we have to sort out the important stuff and get the ataya (pronounced attire) on...

Then it's time for me to start work.

Having done my chores (grating cabbage and carrot) which has now been taken over by Amadou, I am finally allowed to change and have a bit of fun…
The guys are nipping back up the road to buy fresh fish caught this morning which they will then prepare.
Aliou Bah is the main man as far as ‘chef-ing’ is concerned with Kawsu in reserve but they know what they’re doing.
Ok, the sun is up, the water is warm so last one in is a cissy.
Probably can’t say that in this politically correct age, but do I give a toss ?
And I got absolutely hammered…
There's another one coming...

Urrrrgh... That was cold...

Ida is by far the worst out of the three of them.

Call that cold... What a wuss...

She’s also the biggest, so it doesn’t bode well when she grabs hold as the waves come in.

I'll give you wuss, you cheeky so and so...

To be fair to Ida,  Mariama and Jalika have had a lot more experience in water and I managed about an hour before I needed to get out, and to tell you the truth I was knackered.
I left the kids with Housai’ watching over them.

Anybody going further out than waist height will be dragged out and won’t be allowed in the sea again.
They’ve been warned but they’ll be alright for a bit in the shallows.
Time to dry off before a lunchtime snack.
And finally…
Fat Cham has arrived.
She definitely missed the bus…
(And she’s not fat either, it’s short for Fatou…)
And so, typically because it’s food time, has Ali.

Ali lives at Sanyang anyway, and I think Haddy asked him to pop over because he makes the wristbands which she gives out to our friends at Cropredy and to others so honoured.
Today he’ll be making about ten plus one special one each for the little ones.
No problem.

Ok, let’s eat.
The lunchtime snack is the fish they bought when we arrived, with the aforementioned cabbage and carrot mix as the ‘salad’.
This is then liberally sluiced with lime juice and black pepper and it tastes ok to one who’d never had it before.
Ok, I’d have preferred lettuce and tomato, but it’s what we could get and beggars can’t be choosers…
I got ‘Ladyfish’.
The picture below is out of sequence and was actually taken at the compound but it will give you some idea of the sizes of these things.

At the bottom is a Ladyfish and above that is a Barracuda
 And, as usual, the piece was bloody enormous.
How do people eat all that ?
I can’t, and that’s a fact.
Haddy had barracuda and that wasn't small either.

Haddy's barracuda

(You can actually buy frozen barracuda steaks in the UK now, check your local African or Asian grocer...) 
I can’t see the dogs getting any either, certainly not with this lot about…
I do however have to pay tribute to my fellow chefs because it was absolutely delicious.

It’s after lunch, and now the three little monsters are going to have to wait an enforced hour after they’ve eaten and so they are going for a walk with Amadou down the beach before hitting the sea again.

Ali has eaten, done his bit with the wristbands and been paid for his efforts and now he’s off to see a couple of his mates further down the beach.
Of course the little ones and Amadou have now vanished into the distance somewhere, so guess who got the job of going to look for them ?
Yep !
Got it in one…
The problem with me going is that I’m a sitting target for every bloody bumster on the beach and I can tell you now, it gets very tedious just saying ‘No thank you’ or ‘No thanks, I’m looking for my kids… You haven’t seen three little girls and their elder brother have you ?’ and all they want to do is sell you something, so they’re not really interested.
It’s that bloody ‘screw the toubab’ thing again.
I’m in swimming gear and a t-shirt and I’m NOT carrying any money but as they say, they can call around for it later…
I don’t think so.
About a couple of miles down the beach they are finally located and informed that Mum has sent the search party, so could they please return and put her mind at rest, thank you ?
It’s hard work walking on that sand.
It’s red hot for starters, so the walk back is through the wet stuff with the sea rippling at my feet.
You ever walked a couple of miles through wet sand with the waves trickling over your feet ?
It takes twice as long as it did to get there because your feet sink into the sand.
And of course, you are then a target for every bumster on the beach to have another go…
How I managed to remain polite has eluded me, but I did.
Sod it.
I need a drink and fruit juice will do very well, thank you.

Now of course the kids want to go in the sea again…
Oh well, assume supervisory duties and try and get them out when they start shivering which will probably be in about another hour’s time.
It’s a great life if you don’t weaken…

It’s food time again and so it’s time to get the kids out of the water and dried off and then it’s steamed and grilled chicken with the same salad.

Not bad at all…

And I’m used to the cabbage and carrot mix now.
So there I was, videoing everything going on, when the guys changed the subject they had been talking about to music.
Specifically, Gambian music.
I know a few words in Wolof and I really wanted them to switch to English so I could put my two pennies worth into the conversation as well, but as usual, Haddy saved the day and we didn’t even turn the camera off.
The complete conversation is on video and I include it here because these guys and me are on the same wavelength when it comes to Gambian music.
And the reason I’m talking slowly is because English is not their native tongue and I want them to understand what I’m talking about.
If I’d just hit them with my usual fifty mile an hour rat-a-tat-tat speech pattern then they wouldn’t have got most of it, and this was important, to me at least.
If you watch it and think you have a point to make then please get in touch via the blog’s comment section, but I warn you now, I don’t do anonymous users.
Too many of them love flinging insults (usually heavily racist) and I can’t be bothered with them.
There are far too many floating about, and their mindless and gutless comments hiding under their cloak of anonymity piss me off, so I sorted the blog so it won’t accept them.
Anybody sending a comment is welcome to do so, but I can do without mindless arseholes.
(Couldn’t we all ?)
Anyway, here ‘tis…
What do you reckon ?
It does throw up a few points, especially about reggae but I think we covered most bases ?
It also makes me think that I’d love to work with ‘Pa Lie’ on something out there.
I reckon we could do something to prove our point ?
Oh yeah, for those who have blundered in here by accident or because you’ve clicked on something that looked interesting to you, here’s a link to one of those films that my wife made about the Afro Manding guys that I mentioned in the conversation.
They’re both on Youtube but I actually like the ‘look’ of the first one she shot.
If you’re one of the regular readers (and I know there’s a few) then you’ve probably seen one if not both of them already.
If not, then it’s just a practice session without the kora player and vocalist who returns on the second one in which we lose one drummer and the balofon player due to circumstances beyond their control.
Is that it ?
This bloody post is going on for ever, I hear you cry ?
Errr… Actually no.
But there is a little more, he says, hesitantly…

Ok, it’s late afternoon and the little ones are finally out of the water.
Now it’s time for a couple of wrestling bouts…

Waste of time.

I would have put my money on Kawsu and I would have won, just like he did…

They’re a lovely bunch of nutters, this lot.
I love them to bits.
Friends, colleagues in a couple of things, teachers…

Pa Lie, Fat' Cham and Mariama at back
What can I say ?
But they are definitely utterly mad sometimes, and this was one of those ‘sometimes’.
Some of you have read some of the earlier posts in which I mention the family’s ‘Initiation ceremony’.
If you haven’t, then what I suggest you do is click on the upcoming video link and all will be revealed.
It is of course total madness, but that’s one of the things that all families have hidden away somewhere…
And ours is no exception.
The poor innocent dupe whose turn it is will be given a quick warning, told to kneel, and then it occurs…
And loud screams and yells usually hit the air because it’s bloody cold for a start.
Not that I have yet had it done, I haven’t.
But my time will definitely come.
This year it was Lamin’s turn and also Jali Bakary’s.
I do think it should take place a little earlier in the day because the sea is beginning to cool down by this time.
Yes, you are quite right.
We are all stark raving mad.
But that’s the joy of it, don’t you see ?
Oh, and just to prove a point, here's a still shot taken literally just after it occurred...
Please note the proximity of the two dogs. 

Pa Lie, Dog, Mariattou, Housai' and dog...

Anyway, anything after that is an anti-climax.
Like giving out the ties…

I mean can you think of a more unsuitable place to do it ?
But the guys were all here and in one place and it made sense to Haddy, so why not ?
There’s no arguing with her logic, is there ?

It was time to leave.
I always miss this place when we go.
Probably because Haddy and I came here for our wedding reception ?
It has always been somewhere to go and just chill out for the day.
But it has seen better days under Fatou’s stewardship and then under Haddy’s when her daughter first went to Scotland with her husband.

Somebody should look after it, but Fatou’s Father will not do it.
He is only interested in ‘instant money’ and it shows in what Haddy had put into it, and which has since gone missing, and the state the place is in now.

It is very sad.
I’m glad I haven’t met Fatou’s Father, and I have no wish to either.
The guy is definitely on my ‘shit list’.
(Cue L.7 for their music track… Google it if you have to… Great track)

The three youngest members all fell asleep on the way back home.
Bearing in mind the times they usually go to bed, I think they must be tired out ?
We left a bit later than we were going to, which caused a bit of trepidation as Jali was supposed to be at work that night and when we stopped outside his place of employment he was still wet, ok, he’d changed into his suit whilst in the mini-van, but at least we got him there on time.
And when we finally got back to Fajikunda it was in the middle of a power cut, and we found Awa, back from work, sitting in the middle of the compound with a candle for company…
Typically as soon as we got back the kids woke up.
It had definitely been one of ‘those’ days.