Goodbye Maggie, I think I’ve got nothing to say to you

With reference to our vehicle-scoring system, there’s been some debate as to what score to award a motorcyclist with a rear light and a head torch. The discussion centred on whether the ingenuity shown cancelled out the missing front light.

This morning the kids headed off in small groups, unaccompanied by staff but each bunch furnished with a Gambian youth, to the counterparts’ houses. Alasana is in touch with each lot by phone, so everything should go smoothly. At lunchtime, the 3 Inverness teachers are taking Sadibou, Alasana, Rohey and Jim Lowe (and me) out to lunch for a pizza. We are then going to the beach where the young folk will again meet up with us. Jamila is a bit better, but not fully recovered yet, so we have worked out an “escape plan” for her if it all gets too much.

I had some sad news this morning: Saikou’s father died. Saikou is one of my best friends here and I met his dad briefly a couple of times on my “road trip” a fortnight or so ago. It was hard for me to judge his age, but he certainly wasn’t young: nevertheless a sad time for the family. Funerals take place soon after the death out here, so he’s being buried this afternoon. I would have gone if it was taking place near here: it would certainly be possible to make the hour and a half journey to the village, but I feel that my arrival might put an extra burden on the family as I couldn’t just slip away quietly in a taxi after the event.

In the meantime, Pat is weeding onions, Adrian is painting, Tosh is drooling over the mahogany and I’m waiting for Malang to come up for his next Excel lesson.


The home visits seem to have gone very well: the groups saw a variety of different homes, living conditions and extended families. The young toubabs seem to have been quite an attraction as large extended families turned out to see them and one group saw a man in a circumcision mask-costume (as we saw a week or two back in Katchikally) who did some sort of ritual dance which involved throwing machetes about before taking away two small boys. When the boys came back, their fathers examined their “undercarriages” to check everything was satisfactory.

I feel a few rants coming on…

My lesson with Malang was due to start at 9:30, but due to lack of power it was about 11:00 before we started. The lesson was constantly interrupted by his mobile phone ringing and at least once this led to a half hour hiatus. The result was that the couple of hours we had planned for were limited to several short bursts amounting to little more than half an hour: the rest of the time I sat about and twiddled my thumbs. The Gambians are worse with their mobile phones than the most addicted British youngsters and Malang looked surprised when I suggested that during tomorrow’s lesson the phone should be off.

Tosh had invited four of the Gambian youth leaders to our Pizza lunch, with the planned departure time of 12:30. Needless to say none of them was ready on time and gathering them all together was like trying to hold a handful of sand. Eventually we got there and had an excellent pizza.

We all met up on the beach, where it was a bit breezy but we all determinedly enjoyed ourselves in the waves for the last time on this trip.

When I got home, I found an email from Mrs M saying that, despite our hopes, the seagulls have again started nesting on the roof of the flats opposite our house. These blasted birds – much more troublesome than their Gambian counterparts – attack us as we leave our house, make constant noise, steal from the occasional barbecue, pinch the cat’s food and foul our windows. Once the young are born, the parents are even more aggressive and walking up our drive almost requires a crash helmet and a NBC suit. I celebrated my retirement almost two years ago by buying a catapult but a few shots convinced me I’m more likely to break a window than hit one of these flying rats. I have researched ways of poisoning seagulls (baking soda inside a fish head is a good one), but I don’t fancy being jailed for the sake of a blasted seagull! The Council will do nothing to help, saying it’s the responsibility of the householder. But with a block of flats…

I suppose I should end by writing something sanctimonious about Mrs Thatcher, who died today, but I’m not going to.




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