Wednesday, 17 September 2014


It’s the morning after the night before…
Dunno why I started like that because this is all chronological shit anyway, but I’ve always wanted to, so I did ?
It had been a bad night.
Everybody, kids included, had been short-tempered before we went to bed, and I can’t speak for them but I suspect we all had a restless sleep, I know Haddy and I did.
Shit !
You go through this stuff, and I’m quite sure I’m not the only one who’s been there, but there isn’t a recognisable guide to buy to get you through it.
Everybody just has to ‘wing it’ when the shit comes down, and it bloody well came down yesterday, I know that much…
So, breakfast is one tapa-lapa each with a small tin of sardines and it’ll do before we go.
Please God, just let us go out without any early morning visitations from anyone else, today…
And luckily it happened, and by nine we’re in a taxi off to Westfield and the bank.
Sailing through that while attempting to second guess how much we’re going to need for the rest of our break.
I think we’ve got enough, Haddy thinks it’s too much, but we can always leave any remainder with the kids when we depart.
I prefer to leave with about two thousand dalasi in my pocket because it means you can buy a snack at the airport and we’ll have enough to buy essentials when we come back again.
We’ve done it so often now, and it seems to work out.
So that’s sorted then, now we need another taxi to the supermarkets…
I have to admit that I’m not a great fan of The Gambian taxi system.
Oh yeah, it seems to work, but having to stop at designated places and change taxis because the taxi cannot cross an invisible line onto somebody else’s patch can be a serious pain in the arse when you have to go shopping.
And, of course, the line is between the bank and the supermarkets…
And then you find out that some of them can ?
It's all too confusing for me.
But we get there and start filling up again.
Thankfully we are able to replenish most of what we gave away last night.
There are a couple of things we’re short of, but nothing we can’t pick up locally at a pinch.
Right, let’s get home again and see what the day has in store for us today…

It was a lazy day.
My biggest problem is trying to get Haddy to commit to a time to get dinner ready for.
Hassa’ says about eight to half-past should do it, so that is what I’m going to aim for.
Awa and Housai’ will be back from work and changed by then.
Ok, let’s do it.
Haddy rang Yama to see how they were getting on, and apparently they’d already sold a pair of shoes for three hundred dalasi…
Well, it’s a start.
It’s ‘fish money’ but with the rice and vegetables we gave them it’ll get them back on track for a bit.
Haddy now has to decide what to do with her remaining box.
She’s sorted out a box full of ‘family sized assortments’ for Ousman, whose son will be picking them up at some time this afternoon after he’s emptied his truck.
It leaves her with one box, most of which is a cross between men’s clothing and kid’s stuff.
I say give the men’s stuff to the lads and Amadou.
The shirts and ties might help them at work, so why not ?
Obviously the children’s wear can be given out locally.
I’m still dubious about the ties, though…

Mariama and Jalika have found an old set of artist’s paints in a bag that has been stored in one of the shops since Baddou got them to clear their rooms.
It probably belonged to either Amadou or the twins at one point but it had barely looked used and so they’d decided to try them out.

Surprisingly the paints haven’t dried out and since it all seem useable, they’ve been painting odd designs all afternoon just trying them out.

It’s kept them occupied for a few hours and out of the way.

No fighting, no yelling, and no mention of last night for which we are all thankful.
So half way through the afternoon I start peeling the potatoes.
I’m going to boil them before roasting them because they crisp up better that way and I might as well do it properly.
The carrots I’ve decided to ‘Julienne’ which for those not used to cooking expressions are thin strips as opposed to dicing or slicing.
They look flash when served, so why not ?
The green beans just need their stringy bits removed but that’s easy enough.
And the meat needs roasting…
Which is probably going to be the hardest bit ?
Now it is probably fair to say that Gambian cooking compared to English, Chinese, Indian, Mexican, Italian, Moroccan or any of the other things I try out on my poor long suffering family is something I tend to leave to one of the kids or Haddy.
This is because meat is done to death here as opposed to cooking it until it is tender.
There are reasons.
The heat does not lend itself to keeping meat fresh when you have no refrigerator is one thing.
The flies are another.
So cooking things well is a tried and trusted formula for not getting ill.
How I persuade them that this leg of lamb will be best served by keeping it a little moist inside is beginning to be today’s insurmountable problem...
And in the end I gave up.
It will be cooked by Hassanatou, who has taken all things into consideration but is still going to cook it her way.
Ok, I’ll shut up now and stick to the veg’.
Arguing with Hassa’ is a ‘no-win’ situation anyway.
Not for her, just for anybody else.
It’s a bit like Star Wars and that ‘May the force be with you’ quote.
You’d never have to do it with Hassa’ because the force is already there…
In spades !!!
And she sees no need to take any prisoners along the way.
I wonder where she gets that from ?
(Looks at Haddy, smiles, and shakes head…)
There’s a core of steel in this family.
It’s most noticeable in Haddy, Hassa’ and Mariama, but there isn’t a single one of them prepared to take any shit from anybody else.
Housai’, Awa and Amadou are just a little quieter and possibly a bit less direct about it, and as for Jalika, nobody is going to mess with the little one.
There have been far too many bloody noses, split lips and black eyes given those who had tried.
Talking of which, there are a couple of the local lads with huge ‘shiners’, one of which had been given him by Jalika a few days ago…
And she’d only hit him once.
I think we might have to think about karate classes at some point ?
Haddy is right.
Jalika can’t go through her life hitting people, she needs to ‘channel it’.
The twins had been when they were younger and it had given them a lot more confidence, it was now probably time to think about the youngest two ?
We’ll have a think about it, but in the meantime…
I have a meal to sort out.

The meat is cooked by eight and is now settling nicely.
It should be ready to carve at about half past eight when the vegetables have been cooked and I’ve made a gravy with the lamb juices after letting the fat cool.
It’s so much easier to do it that way and take the fat off in dried white lumps rather than doing it while it’s still in liquefied form.
It mixes better with the water and stock cubes too.

That went better than even I could have hoped ?
Hassanatou had done me proud on the meat.
I’d managed to do the potatoes to perfection.
A dab of melted olive spread mixed with parsley over the carrots.
And I’d nearly managed to remove all the stringy bits from the green beans.
The mint sauce (from a bottle) had added a touch of zing.
And all compliments will be gratefully accepted…
The general consensus of opinion was that it was pretty good.
Bearing in mind there hadn't been a chilli pepper in sight this was high praise indeed.
The potatoes had surprised them as proper roasted potatoes were not usual in The Gambia and the carrots with their parsley coating were judged ‘delicious’.
I can live with that.

All our visitors managed to come in while we were clearing our plates…
‘Neneh Kombo, why didn’t you tell us Uncle Chris was cooking ?’
Well, if we’d done that then we’d have had a compound full of visitors all stuffing themselves at our expense, wouldn’t we ?
Nobody actually said it, but the thought was there.
And when we had finished there was absolutely nothing left in the communal bowl whatsoever.
Even Princess had managed to get in on the act.
She’d stuffed a slice of meat, some chopped carrots and green beans covered in gravy, and was now meowing loudly looking for more.
Tough luck puss cat, it’s literally all gone.
Time to chill and sort out some softer sounds methinks ?
It’s going to be a hectic day tomorrow…

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