Thursday, 15 October 2015


Three weeks later it’s my Mother’s birthday and a week after that is the date of her wedding anniversary with my late Father.
Not surprisingly she’s at her lowest ebb at this time, feeling that she has nothing to celebrate without Dad being there, and so we’re going over to see her on the wedding anniversary weekend.
She has said that she wants to go to the Garden of Remembrance and lay some flowers so we will be accompanying her.

It was, as you can imagine, one sad day and that is likely to continue as we both know it's not something that she will ever come to terms with.
All we can do is be there as much as we possibly can.
Not the easiest thing in the world when you are having to work as much as we are to feed the children and we're seventy miles away...
But we do what we can.

As soon as we get back from Mum’s, Haddy puts in for her final ‘Englishness’ test.
This is the spoken one where she has to converse and ask questions while she is being examined as to her comprehension of speech.
She has to talk non-stop on a specific subject chosen by the examiner for a period of five minutes,
the subject to be determined on the day.
It doesn’t seem too insurmountable as there are times that my wife could talk for The Gambia were it to be an Olympic event…
Check out the rules for applying...
So we have a couple of practice sessions at home on three of the specifics from their list of ten.
Not bad…
She can do this.
And so she takes another day off to go to Euston for a ten minute examination.
As soon as she gets there, the staff warn her that the examiner she has been given only ever gives C’s to E’s which are failures…
Nice !
That’s a confidence booster…
Nobody needed to worry though, before she’d even officially started in the ‘Name, Address, Passport I.D. and How are you getting on bit’, the conversation had already started.
She’d got music as a subject in which she had to answer general questions and to keep the conversation going on for five minutes, remembering to ask the examiner at least one question whilst it is going on.
When the examiner asked her if she liked any artists in particular, she’d come back with Emmylou Harris and Dolly Parton as particular favourites, both here and in The Gambia and hopefully she’d get to see one if not both of them someday ?
That turned into working at Rhythms of the World Festival and having just come back from Cropredy
Festival (Festivals being another possible question on the list) so she didn’t do too badly, did she ?
Bearing in mind she could have got ‘Transport’ or ‘Family Occasions’.
At the end of ten minutes, the examiner calls a halt and actually said ‘Ok, you can stop talking now…’
(Told you she could talk for her country…)
And then she said that it was quite obvious that she would be perfectly alright living here, and that her speech was definitely one of the best she’d heard in months and she had absolutely no hesitation in giving her an A plus mark for her efforts.
Then, and this is the final clincher, she told her that she had absolutely made her day and it was a wonderful change to actually meet somebody who could actually converse and not just come back with stilted answers, and well done because she had passed with distinction.
And that was it.
Haddy of course, walks out of the examination room as if she’s on cloud nine and is immediately asked by the staff how she got on ?
‘A plus’ says my wife.
‘No… ‘
‘Yes, A plus…’
And then the examiner herself came out and said to all and sundry ‘I wish everybody who came here was as good as that. That really has made my day…’
I don’t particularly want to go into the politics of it, but it does make you wonder why, if they cannot converse in English, some people are trying to gain UK citizenship ?  
But at least now she can apply for hers because she’s passed all the tests.

Whilst we’ve been doing all this, the World news has not been good.
There has been an Ebola outbreak in West Africa and it's been getting worse.
Sierra-Leone, Guinea and about three other countries are affected and Senegal has just announced that they think they have a victim too ?
The Gambia is stuck in the middle of the lot of them.
It’s a killer, and people have been dying by the hundreds on a daily basis and will do so until screening and quarantining takes effect
Ok, give me a chance to do some overtime and we could be there at the end of October or maybe the beginning of November ?
Either way it’ll probably be for Tobaski again which is definitely not the time to go if you’re trying to save money…
That is, of course, if we are actually allowed into the country ?
The President has closed the borders of The Gambia and currently nobody is allowed in unless it’s through the airport at Banjul.
This has put a complete spoke in the wheels of the Gambian economy because so many traders go to Senegal and the other outlying countries to buy their merchandise for their establishments.
The kids, obviously, are as frightened as anybody else.
Haddy has told them to keep the gates to the compound shut.
Nobody who has recently been travelling is allowed through those gates regardless of whether they are family or not, and nobody who has relatives who have recently been travelling is allowed in either.
It might upset and annoy a few, but I wouldn’t give them a cat in hell’s chance of trying to influence Hassanatou on that one.
If they push their luck she’s likely to use boiling oil…
Common sense is common sense after all and she will enforce that decision down to the wire…
I have to admit that the way things are going I’m scared for them.
Ebola is one of those diseases that the area is prone to.
Caused by infected animals, most of which we would label as 'bushmeat', it is spread by flu-like symptoms, one cough and you could be the next victim.
Check out the details and symptoms here...
The airlines that fly to the infected areas are all shutting down their flights and nobody can now get in, and right in the middle of the whole infected area is The Gambia, which, so far, has not yet had a case.
Haddy has put in for a holiday at work but because it is in school time and not an official holiday period, has been refused.
She works in the kitchen for Christ’s sake.
It’s not as if she can’t be covered for three weeks, is it ?
But no…
The refusal stands.
Ok, you want to play that game and not take into account any compassionate considerations then screw you.
It’s not as if we can bring them here, what with Parliament’s complete refusal to do anything other than support the members of the European Union and shit on everybody else.
So the letter goes in.
‘Bye… I’m leaving… The children are more important, so stick your job…’
The staff cannot believe it, but she is adamant and quite honestly I think she’s right.
They cannot get it through their heads that they are now the enemy…
Along with six hundred and fifty parliamentary pricks, the European Union and the Human Rights Act which does not seem to accept that Africans are human too.
My attitude is the same as it has always been.
Act reasonably and we will do the same.
Act unreasonably and you loose the whirlwind…
And when that occurs, shit happens.
To use Mariama’s expression, if it is ‘unjust’ then you fight it because if you don’t then the injustice continues.
Fuck ‘em.

At least they were a lot more understanding in her second job.
All they asked was that she take care of herself and they’d see her when she got back.
They understood.
It’s family, and you don’t fuck with it.
They can go home after work and see their children but my wife cannot.
She would be able to if she wasn’t being discriminated against by the UK government and their slavish wish to remain as part of the European Union which stops African children coming to the UK to be with their parents, but allows any and all Europeans to do so.
And that, as they say, is the problem in Black and White.
White’s in and Black’s out.
Check all the European Union’s members census results if you don’t believe me.
An apartheid system by any other name.
So, come the end of October we’re flying out so long as the Ebola thing doesn’t spread and the plane can still land ?
Which has definitely not pleased my Mother.
But at least the Senegalese victim is now thought to have been suffering from influenza and not Ebola and so the Gambian border has now been opened again.
Oh well, it’s a start…
And the truth of the matter is, I miss the kids terribly so God knows what it must be like for her ?

It’s the end of October and we’re ready to go.
I don’t really know how we managed it, but we’ve got a Monday flight out in the late morning ?
This is all well and good but it’s a pain in the arse getting to Gatwick through the traffic at that time of day.
Not only is the M25 busy but so is the motorway to Gatwick and to make matters worse I managed to miss the turn-off for the long term parking.
They’ve sent instructions as usual as to how to get there but unfortunately there seem to be one too many roundabouts on the instructions…
Eventually, after doing the turn off instructions twice I give up following them and guess it ?
Nearly made it…
I just shot past the turn-off but at least we’re off the motorway, so turn around yet again and drive back to the last roundabout and have another go…
And finally we’re parked up and getting their courtesy bus to the airport.
Jesus, I could have done without that.
But at least we’re there now.
Sitting in the departure lounge after going through all their security checks which, to be quite honest, are an absolute pain.
I know of no other country where you have to remove your belt and boots, and now the laptop has to be packed separately…
Security is a fine thing, but I can’t help thinking somebody in the government who makes these things up has never actually had to do it ?
Oh well, it is apparently for our own safety so I’ll go along with it, but when they open one of the cases I wear over my shoulder I begin to wonder if it’s not just a bad dream ?
'It’s a minidisk recorder... That’s the microphone and that’s a stand to rest it in and those are minidisks,
the headphones are in my hand luggage, ok ?'
God help us !!!
I can’t possibly be the only passenger who’s ever carried one to listen to something worthwhile on the flight, can I ?
Who knows ?
But finally, after the usual half-mile walk to the aircraft, we are ready to board...
We started off this morning at about four-thirty and now all I want is a sleep.

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