Sunday, 6 July 2014


Of course as soon as I went back into work on the Tuesday it was ‘Do you want any overtime this coming weekend’ ?
Of course I want overtime, we’ve got a trip to The Gambia coming up in about eight weeks and what do you think is going to help pay for it ?
We were finally going to be out there for ‘Tobaski’, or officially Eid Al Adha.
The last time we’d actually been there together with the kids for Tobaski was the year we got married, and then of course there was our honeymoon so we managed to miss a lot of it, but now we were going back…                 
I’d booked it way back, nearly ten months ago when I had enough in my account to actually pay for the tickets… (£650 each through The Gambia Experience-You can find them online or at good travel agents) 
Because it wasn't officially part of the holiday season we'd actually got a 30 kilo baggage allowance which was a godsend to us, bearing in mind the amount of stuff we try and cram into our suitcases.
And they’d only asked for a deposit which was fine by me until I spent the rest on a particularly virulent gas bill and some other things involving visas…
But let’s not go there, eh ?  
It was never very nice in the first place.
So, about six weeks before we fly I get the rest of the bill.
Believe me, the overtime is a BIG help.

And so, the Friday before Tobaski, we flew…
It was the usual all-nighter for us, driving down to Gatwick to be there at four am and then finding out that the flight has been put back an hour…
Don’t you just love it when that shit occurs ?
Ok, it was only an hour but us older folks do not appreciate it one bit, just think what it would have been like if it had been longer ?
We’d have fallen asleep about nine and missed the bloody thing altogether…
Ok, moan over.
It’s the usual flight, takes about six hours, there is a film and there is food, there is also sod-all in the way of legroom, and if you’re really lucky, not too many screaming infants…
And we’re there.
Only about half an hour later than we’d have been if the flight had actually departed on time,
for which, a big ‘thank you’ is due to the wind over The Sahara…
Through Customs and Immigration and immediately assailed by what looks suspiciously like every taxi-driver in The Gambia…
‘Hey, Auntie Haddy…’
And that one is ours.
And the kids don’t know we’re coming.
Oh, they know we’re arriving, but my wife didn’t actually give them the correct day, so they think we’re coming on next Tuesday’s flight…
Let’s catch them all out, is my wife’s explanation.
Ok, but let’s not do it too often, eh ?
There is a reason.
Hopefully we’ll get in and greet the kids before too many people flood the compound to welcome her back.
So, stop at the top of the road at the corner shop for a few bits and pieces (Julbrew, Guinness, Ginger Beer, Coca-Cola, Fanta, biscuits, cheese triangles… That sort of thing) and down the road we went…

 Now, you know what ‘Tobaski’ is, don’t you ?
You know it’s an Islamic Thanksgiving Festival, right ?
You didn’t ?
Well, you haven’t been too long at reading this blog then, have you, because I tried to describe it a few years back and the chapter is still there, believe me.
So what happens is…
I suppose I should ask if all the vegans and vegetarians are sitting comfortably in front of their screens reading this ?
I bloody well hope so, because you’re going to be doing a bit of squirming in a few minutes or a few pages time…
If, like me, you are a meat eater then it shouldn’t distress you too much unless you are one of those ‘Halal meat is evil’ sanctimonious hypocrites that I despise so much.
It’s just a different way of doing things, you may not like it but that’s just the way it is and I suggest you get over it.
If you eat meat then don’t complain because it is all bred for slaughter.
You’ve been warned, ok ?
Ok, so what happens is…
And who am I writing this for, anyway ?
You do know that the blog tells me where all my readers are, don’t you ?
I know how many Brit’s read it, how many Americans, how many Gambian, French, German, Swedish, Saudi-Arabian, Indonesian, Chinese…
Where you’ve come from, and which site sent you…
Which chapters you’ve read…
What’s the matter, feeling paranoid ?
You’re all out there reading this for whatever reason ?
Hey, I’m not knocking it, I’m just glad that you find me and my family worth your time.
I do realize that not everybody is going to be in the same position as me with the same sort of crazy life and family, so if it interests you in any way then that’s cool for me too.
And there are a few hundred of you tuning in from time to time.
Well, apart from the governmental spying search-engines let’s say ?
MI5, the CIA, all that lot are going to read it because it has the words 'Islam' and 'Muslim' in it, and they’re very suspicious of that sort of thing, which is why they do it.
Don’t worry, if I were in charge then I’d probably have got my spymasters to do exactly the same sort of thing…
And what’s more, truth be told, I’d bet a pound to a dollar to a euro that you would too ?
I just wish that they’d have the fucking decency to tell us the truth once in a while if they want to spy on us ?
Certain governments might get a little more respect (You reading this, Cameron ?)
Doubtful, bearing in mind they have scarcely told us the truth since they came to power and certainly didn’t over this particular subject.
And if Edward Snowden hadn’t blown the gaff and told the world that The USA were spying on all of us and giving the information to our lot then we’d have had our suspicions, but we would never have known the extent of it, would we ?
And just remember, if they’re checking me out, then they will be checking you out if you are reading the blog, because they want to know whether you are what they regard as a ‘terrorist’ ?

I’ve just used the other word that’s going to set off the alarm bells on their search engines.
Therefore to use the title of a poetry cd I stuck out a few years back, we are ‘Erring on the side of paranoia…’
I do find it quite amusing, because it means I can take the piss and there is absolutely fuck all they can do about it…
Not that I'm denigrating the threat of terrorism, far from it.
The threat is now global whether we like it or not ?
Remember this, I grew up with the constant threat of the I.R.A. blowing us to hell.
But the threat of terrorism is there for all to see.
And it's not just the West, is it ?
How many Muslim countries face the same constant threat ?
More than most people realise, that's for sure.
So forgive me for taking the piss occasionally, because I'm up to here with the lies from both sides.
But this has deviated somewhat, so let’s get back to Tobaski, at least that's real.

The Tobaski festival, or to give it it’s proper name of Eid Al Adha for those who have never experienced one, is one of Islam’s celebratory days and is a public holiday apart from essential workers needed to keep the infrastructure going.
It is a sacrificial feast day to commemorate God telling Abraham to sacrifice his son, Ismail.
All married men and/or heads of households are expected to buy a sheep (or goat, cow, chicken, or whatever they can afford) and sacrifice it, cook it and give most of it away to those less fortunate than themselves, and then feed their family with the remainder.
It is literally a day for sharing whatever you have been able to afford and the whole country turns into one absolutely enormous barbecue.
Everybody, male and female alike dresses up in their finest clothes and that includes all the children who run around begging small coins from every adult they see to buy ice creams and sweets with, so make sure you have lots of small denomination coins in your pockets because you are definitely going to need them.
Parents and extended family are visited and I’m quite surprised it can all be fitted into one day.
Ok, so The Gambia is a Muslim country, right ?
The man is the head of the household, right ?
So who is it that is going to buy it, kill it, and then cook it and decide (with a lot of input from the Missus) where it’s all going ?
Yep !
You finally got it, didn’t you ?
Yours truly…
Me ?
Oh shit !
Life certainly does throw up a few curveballs, doesn’t it ?
Now you know.
I have to be honest, killing the animal is not something I’m actually looking forward to…

But that’s for next week.
Now is the time for surprising the kids.
So the taxi pulls up outside the gates and we get out, followed by the driver and our luggage, push the gate open and we’re home…

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