Blue Sky Thinking…

10:50, Manchester airport.

5:00 awoken by radio alarm to programmes we never normally hear! Left house soon after 5:30, Dalcross about 6:00. Brief fond farewells then sit around waiting for flight at 7:00am. Comfortable flight – next to window with neighbouring seat empty.

Now killing time in Manchester airport for flight at 2:15. Had to pay £34!!! for extra luggage. Weight limit for hand luggage 5kg, so had to put Saikou’s laptop in case, so over limit and charged for 2 extra kg at £17 each!  Hope the school group organise charity status.

Weather here pretty horrid – blustery rain. Sonia says it’s snowing in Inverness – lucky them.

11.30pm

Here at last – a long journey with a tedious wait at Manchester. It’s hard to believe, but I think the in-flight meals are worse than ever. I’ve no idea what mine was supposed to be, but I did spot whitish meat, wrinkled peas and undercooked “roast” potatoes. The dessert – chocolate caramel – wasn’t too bad, but I think the quality of the meals goes a long way to explain the popularity of McDonalds.

The arrivals area in Banjul was the usual chaos, but perhaps a little cooler as it was well after 9:00pm when we got off the plane.

My first brush with Gambian officialdom was when the Xray scanner operator ordered me to go to the Customs office, where a pleasant but intransigent official with a passing resemblance to Ii Amin was determined to charge me GmD 1500 (£35) for having two laptops. Saikou was waiting for me outside and I stood my ground: eventually he was brought into the equation and between us we persuaded the smiling official to let me bring the second one in for free. My argument was that I had already spent a lot of money on refurbishing it for a Gambian friend and now they wanted to tax me for a good deed. Eventually officialdom saw the force of my argument and let me through: I didn’t even have to “tip” him so that went well.

We were driven back to the Rhun Palm Inn (RPI) by “Sainy” and greeted by several old friends: Mousa had kept me cold fish and chips (battered butterfish, which took a little time and linguistic dexterity to sort out) and sent out for water. The night-watchman – an acquaintance of several years’ standing shook my hand and gave his customary gap-toothed beaming smile. Having a similar gap in my front teeth, I was able to reciprocate.

I’m pleased to hear that there have been some guests at RPI and I’m told there’s a girl “from Swiss” staying here, as well as a girl who works at the Sunset Beach Hotel and sometimes stays overnight here. She might be useful to sort out my move there when Sonia comes out. Apparently there were some “men from the ministry” staying until recently too.

I’m in the room at the end of the corridor on the left: one I’ve not had before. Mousa proudly pointed out the shower hose and head which we brought out about three years ago. I wasn’t able to test it as there was no water. I think the pump is off. The room is, as always, basic but adequate.

There’s what can only be described as a Gambian ceilidh taking place in part of the stadium grounds. I was told it was a live drumming event, but judging by the way it suddenly stopped dead, it was clearly recorded music. Not a lot of drums at this distance, but singing and some higher pitched – tuned percussion? – instruments. Definitely African, but with South American / Mexican overtones, to my untutored ear. Anyway, the main point is that it’s coming from just across the road and is very loud. I suspect I’ll sleep though!

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