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Preview: The Scrawl Of The Wild

The Scrawl Of The Wild

A sort of what Chris Ripple did, and what he did next...

Updated: 2018-03-06T15:25:22.239-08:00




So the following morning as early as we could make it, Haddy, three noisy and excited girls and me got a taxi to Bakau.The African Village Hotel is shut and so we won’t be going there, so it looks very much like a trip to Ocean Bay is in order ?Wouldn’t you know it, they’re shut too as they are renovating a few bits including the swimming pool.AAAAAAARGH !!!Ok, where next ?Red Croc’ is suggested by the Ocean Bay staff so we might as well have a try since we’re in the vicinity.Yaay !!!Success.They’re going to charge us the same as Ocean Bay would, and what’s more they’ll supply dinner.They only have about twenty guests at the present moment because one lot has just flown back and they’re not expecting anybody else until a lot later tonight and we’ll be gone by then so it looks like we’ve got the complete pool area to ourselves.Nice one.At least the girls won’t get jostled while they’re in the water and they can all splash about to their hearts content.Hopefully it’s going to be a nice relaxing day ?So we’ve told Mariama, Jalika and Ida they can have about an hour in the pool and then we’ll have lunch, after lunch they can mess about for an hour while their lunch goes down and then they can go back in the pool until it’s time for us to go.It sounds about right.I can’t see them wanting to get out because when you put the three of them next to water then they do tend to become water babies for the duration, but we’ll see ?They know the score anyway, they’ve been doing it for long enough now.Ok.Here we go… Right... Let's go...Jalika in the blow-up dinghyMariama relaxingIda has now got the dinghyJalika with the 'surf-dinghy'And finally I'm in...The lads are doing a bit of tree lopping...  Haddy relaxingAwa visitingRight. We've ordered lunch so where is it ?                                                                             Ok, let's eat...Right, well that will give you some sort of idea...And just before we ordered, big sister Awa who is currently part-timing at Ocean Bay as opposed to her full time post decides to walk up the road and pay us a visit.She's taken some time out to get one of her relatives shops up and running.It's a dress shop with material from the USA, Senegal and anywhere else she can get the fabrics from and she seems to be doing quite well at it.I can see her finishing at Ocean Bay if it carries on being as successful as it seems to be at the moment. Oh, and food was chicken, chips and salad x4 and Nasi Goreng x1 just in case you were wondering what the food was ? After lunch we went for an exploring session as we’ve never been here before.And that's why it's called 'Red Croc'It’s definitely quite a nice place to relax in that it’s got a few hotel businesses that you don’t usually see such as the ‘Holistic’ studio, and the beach itself is quite near to the poolside area. I don’t know what it’s going to be like when it’s chock-full of guests but there seems to be enough space to accommodate them.Grow your own fruit...Right, dinner’s gone down so it’s back in the pool… You're supposed to stay on it, not fall off it...Time to go...And that was our first trip to Red Croc’.We left at about four-thirty after doing what we’d hoped to do.We’d had a very relaxing day out but then when you get back you realise that isn’t going to last because everybody wants to know where you’ve been even though they’d all been told and we’d got a compound full including Sainabou and Adama.Oh well, looks like it's time for a bit of music and a beer ?And we've definitely got another dancer in the family...                                       [...]



It had taken a fair bit of work during the week but Haddy had finally managed to get most of the clothes we’d sent out given away to those she felt had needed them.The only things left now were everything we’d sent out for our lot and those that were going to Killy, which would be going at some time the following week along with whoever was free on the day ?So, we get to Saturday having warned Ida’s family that at some time in the morning she’ll be required for a ‘fitting’ session and probably a few photos as well ?After all, if you’re going to act like a rock band then you may as well dress the part…We’d managed to keep Mariama and Jalika away from anything that they felt that they might want and also managed to persuade them that the clothes we were giving away weren’t actually for them, which was more difficult than it sounds as both of them, but Mariama in particular, were quite vociferous on the ‘I like this so I want to keep it’, front.But finally Ida had appeared and so we opened the last bag and started handing out those things we’d put by and bought for them.Ok girls, use the spare shop as a changing room and let’s see what you look like shall we while I go and get all your instruments because you might as well have a few ‘props’ if we’re going to be taking photos ?So with Hassanatou acting as Chief Wrangler to actually get them doing it with a sense of purpose, Haddy and I waited with bated breath…Although with the words that we were hearing through the walls, maybe Chief Mangler is a better description of Hassa’s job ?Apart from the things that Haddy and I had managed to get from some of our friends with daughters the same age-ish, we’d scoured the charity shops back in the UK for things in good and reasonable condition that would look appropriate, and if we hadn’t managed to find anything suitable then we’d look in the cheaper younger fashion outlets.T-shirts had been a particular bugbear as although we could always find something that fitted Mariama and Ida, Jalika being that much smaller was very difficult to find things for, especially if we wanted three matching shirts.It had been difficult but I think we finally managed it ?It would seem that Medium, Large and Obese are the three current UK t-shirt sizes in shops, even for teenage girls...The ‘Rock Band’ t-shirts had been the biggest challenge as it seemed nobody did ‘Small’ and if they did it was closer to medium as far as size went, but finally we’d cracked it at Primark of all places and although the girls wouldn’t have a clue who the band were, as they weren’t played on Gambian radio, at least they could listen to the three albums I had on the computer just to check them out.Right… Come on kids, let’s be seeing you…Good God !!!It’s been said sometimes that ‘clothes maketh the man’ (or woman) but nothing had prepared us for what came out of that room.If they had wanted to be a band then they needed to feel like one and getting the right clothes puts you some distance toward achieving your objective.Three young girls had walked up those steps to change clothes but a band had walked back out with all their own personalities encapsulated in what they were wearing.Talk about a transformation.Right, grab your camera darling and let’s get some pic’s…The Band and Management...Somebody is not taking this seriously...'Rhythms Of The World' t-shirtsI spy with my little eye...The Band, the 'Drum Roadie' and the 'Management' Between four of us we managed to fire off about three hundred and fifty photos that morning.Hassanatou was using her 'phone and Awa, Haddy and I were using cameras and nobody had any inkling as to whether any of them were going to be of any use as none of us are professional photographers, but you always hope that you get the one picture that encapsulates what the subject is all about, whether at weddings, parties or indeed for any subject(s) that you are taking.One thing we did get were a few examples of Jalika's 'subversive' humour when s[...]



It’s strange, some of the things you notice when you’ve been away for a bit…The twin's Wonjor making system seems to be going great guns in that they are selling out on a daily basis, but some people have started abusing it and have decided that they will pay when it’s convenient to them rather than at the point of sale.That’s going to stop as soon as I can get a word in edgeways.Plus, the whole local ‘culture’ thing is putting a fair bit of strain on the younger ones who are being used as skivvies by some of the local young men, and that is beginning to piss me off somewhat so that is going to stop NOW and there aren’t going to be any arguments unless they want one with me ? Here’s an example of what I mean…Its late afternoon and Haddy and the twins are out somewhere, I’m in the compound with Jalika who is sat peacefully doing her homework.The gate opens and some youth who I don’t know from Adam walks in.His first words are ‘Jalika, get me a drink’.Now I appreciate that the word ‘please’ doesn’t come into it, but his attitude sucks big time because as far as I am concerned when the younger ones are doing their school assignments then they are doing just that and their time doing so is NOT going to be interrupted by some arrogant prick who seems to think he can just walk in uninvited and demand their attention.Had he come in and just sat then I would have offered him a drink and Jalika could have gone on doing her homework without any interruption but it didn’t.There was this implied attitude that because she’s a girl then she can just run and do his bidding when he demands it and I’m not happy about that.This is their culture.A ‘man’ demands and the woman or child runs to fulfill it.It flies in the face of every reason for girls to get an education.If the culture is not going to move forward with the times then the times have to move forward without the culture.Anyway, I made mental notes and told Haddy about it when she returned.She says it’s difficult because that attitude is so ingrained in that it won’t be changing anytime soon and so I said that the next one who does it will incur my severe displeasure and will be told that when the younger ones are doing their homework then they are doing something a little bit more important than being used as a slave by an uninvited so called ‘guest’.She says that she’ll talk to the twins and Awa about it because she does actually agree with me, but that it’s going to be difficult… Most of our regular guys who pop round know better than to get into an argument with the twins because they know they will never win it, but there’s bound to be one or two who decide that because they are male then they have certain ‘rights’.In which case they can exercise them in their own compound and not ours, can’t they ?But first things first…‘Hey girls, who’s not paying for Wonjor because it seems that not everybody is ?’Apparently all the locals and their children do, but some of the guys seem to think that they can help themselves and maybe forget to pay when the time comes.‘Fine, so we put the lock back on the freezer door and it becomes no money, no Wonjor, that’ll cure it. And next time ‘Tufa comes in because he’s the worst offender, tell him he owes us for five large bottles, One hundred and fifty Dalasi… We have to pay for the ingredients to keep production going and he’s not helping one bit.   Just ask him to settle his bill. If he won’t then he’ll have to find another supplier because right now he’s just taking the piss…’‘Uncle Chris, you can’t…’‘Who’s paying for it ?  ‘We are’. ‘He’s got himself a job which seems to pay reasonably, so he can stop scrounging off those who haven’t’.Sorted.No money, no Wonjor.It’s possible that the spare freezer that they’ve managed to get working again will have to be moved anyway, as Fatou has been talking to the twins about opening one of the shops as a hair [...]



So…We’re back in The Gambia after only a year being away and not much has changed apart from the children have got a bit bigger all around the village.Times have got a bit harder for the population because it would seem that all the money goes to feed and pay the army and everybody else gets to wait.There is definitely an undercurrent of desperation all over, and we, living in the UK as we do, are regarded as rich.That’s a laugh because if they only knew what we have to go through to get it, then maybe they wouldn’t think it, but because Haddy is in touch with most of them by ‘phone our closer friends know the truth.Ok, we don’t live under a dictatorship but the way things are going UK wise right now, I wouldn’t be surprised if we flew back to find ourselves in one ?It’s hard wherever you are right now and nobody is winning it would seem, except politicians and bankers…So we go through the congratulations on new babies and commiserations over family bereavements and try and stay sane in the face of it all.Because everything has been done in a bit of a rush we haven’t had any time to order anything up for Tobaski, but one of our neighbours has sorted some lamb out for the kids and now we are there we can chip in for some chicken for the following day.Once Tobaski is out of the way we can relax.Sainabou and Granddaughter Adama are going to be with us along with Baddou and most of his family and in all honesty that will do.Sainabou and AdamaMariama and Jalika look very pretty in their matching new outfits as does Ida when she pops over to join them, but Awa cannot decide which of hers to choose ?Mariama, Jalika and IdaHer husband had sent her money for one and she'd got the other done herself.Decisions, decisions... Awa and MumAwaMuch to their disappointment the twins matching outfits were still at the tailors shop and not finished and so they were a little put out to say the least.I know who WON'T be getting the contract to make them next year, so let's leave it at that...Some of Baddou’s family are visiting friends.In the compound with some of Baddou's familyOmar, the lad who had ‘nutted’ one of the nuisances last year was back but in Western clothes this year. Omar on the left and friendHe’s off with one of his mates and won’t be hanging about.Too many and nobody will be able to get a word in…Baddou's eldest daughter HaddyStill, everybody who’s been told we’ve arrived seems happy to see us again and that’s a plus.The minus is that I got put in charge of some of the cooking.Now let’s get one thing straight from the start.I CAN actually cook.My problem is cooking with charcoal.It’s alright being told how long to do it but the variables that come up regarding how much heat you are going to need mean that if I do it then it’s not going to be foolproof and it could come out a burnt mess ?It didn’t, but I listened to Sainabou…‘Uncle Chris, stop cooking it now or it will burn…’‘Ok, I’m on it’.As for our Granddaughter Adama, she still hasn’t got used to me and even cries if I give her wonjor, but she’ll get used to me eventually…Hopefully ?KawsuTufaBuba' SannehAnd let's not forget all the children...Little 'TaphaBubacarrPa Musa And then there’s the cat.A very heavily pregnant Princess is definitely about to drop kittens which she proceeds to do on the second day of Tobaski.If it’s not one thing, it’s another… She’d made herself a bed in the darkest corner of one of Haddy’s two unrented shops where we store all the stuff we send out there, and about three days later she’d proudly picked up her kittens one at a time and taken them all into the house and into one of the girl’s bedrooms.Unseen by any of the family of course, and so the first we knew about it was when the girls heard their piteous mewing when Princess had gone to eat…Aaaaaarrrgh !!!Ok you lot, out you come...Much to their Mother’s annoyance of course.But now they’re back safely in the [...]



It feels odd flying into Banjul that bit later than usual.Instead of the middle of the afternoon plus an hour-ish if there wasn’t a wind, that being the case we’d usually be there bang on time.Now we’re heading in very late afternoon into that early evening bit which never seems to last that long in The Gambia ?But that’s what being closer to the equator does for you.Grab the bags when they come off the belt and promptly get a ‘pull’ for bringing in food.There’s a bloody great ‘F’ chalk-mark on my suitcase now.This is true. I’ve brought along some of Haddy’s chillies to prove to the kids that we can grow hot ones in Britain too…Which, strictly speaking, I shouldn’t have done without filling in a bloody great form that I’d probably have had to pick up from the High Commission in London, so I’d thought…Yeah… You know what I thought, don’t you ?And here comes another miscreant…Apparently my wife has been ‘pulled’ for drugs… And there’s a bloody great chalk marked ‘D’ on her suitcase !!!‘Yes Officer… Yes, it is my wife… Honestly mate, I’m not making this up, this lady is definitely my wife…’You couldn’t make this shit up, could you ?The one bloody time that she didn’t bring a prescription for her diabetes pills.I’ve got mine for my heart pills, ok it’s not been changed since last year but the pills are the same, and all my wife has is her name printed on the box label without the covering script.The word ‘BOLLOX’ springs to mind… Ten minutes with the ‘Official’ who gives us both a reprimand for ‘smuggling’, and we’re outside getting in the taxi and only one hundred dalasi and a couple of British chillies lighter…So please, if you have to take any form of prescription medicine and you are traveling to The Gambia, remember to take a copy of your prescription about your person and honestly you can avoid all this. See…It’s not always WHO you know, is it ?Sometimes it’s what you know…I really do dislike that way of doing things because you never know what you could possibly be getting into, but it seems to be a fact of life here throughout most of society.And I don’t think I’ll ever get used to it ?We ask our driver to stop at the local supermarket at the top of the road where I can load up with a few drinks for me and the kids, cheese triangles and some biscuits and whatever Haddy wants, and then it’s a quarter of a mile down the road…So we got there a day earlier than they were expecting us.Hahahaha…The look on their faces was priceless.And then we’re covered in hugs…Hi kids, we’re home…  Everybody is there, even Sainabou and Adama are there, but Sibo is still at, or on her way back from school. Apparently her new school has a system where all the Christian children get the first shift (there are two) and only the top twenty five of each year if you’re a Muslim ? I’m not sure she’s going to like that system because she’ll never see Ida or Jalika until late and she's stuck in the house doing jobs until lunchtime when she goes to school. Oh well, she knows what she has to do to change it, and by the end of the first term too…That is going to be a bit of a bummer to say the least.As is the fact that the children’s schools will not be closing for a Tobaski holiday as the President has decided to take that week of celebrations and move it to the week that he and his celebrate their coup-de-tat anniversary…Which is definitely going to be an even bigger bummer !Six fucking days with the little ones ?Is that it ?Six fucking days out of three weeks ???Well I guess we’d better suck on it because there sure ain’t anything else on offer ? I was right…You couldn’t make this shit up.Of course by the time Mariama finally gets home the word had got round and we’ve got a compound full…It’s going to be a late night, I can feel it.I think I’d better have a beer…[...]



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... 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 CropredyFestival (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 [...]



Sorry about the delay in keeping the posts up to date because we are now over a year behind but we’ve had ‘family stuff’ going on and it tends to get in the way of whatever free hours I’ve had to do it, but finally we seem to be coming out of it and it’s been a bit of a bastard to say the least.But don’t worry, you’ll get to read about most of it in the forthcoming posts…CROPREDY 2014THURSDAYSo… Cropredy…It felt really odd setting off after being back at work three days after Rhythms.It was like there was something missing ? And there was…There was no ‘build up’ to it.It was like we hadn’t stopped even though this one was all pleasure and no work.Apart maybe from putting up the tent, which is the one thing actually guaranteed to start arguments !!!When discussing it with some of the others I knew were going, and that’s not just our lot but members of the other two intrepid groups from our part of the world who I tend to bump into when I’m actually working, there were a few divisions.It’s far too ‘Proggy’ was the one I subscribed toas againstIt’s brilliant. Marillion, Steve Hackett and… The Australian Pink Floyd !!! Fuckin’ A… I’m in heaven…Which I didn’t.I’m afraid my serious ‘Prog’ Rock’ days were over back in about 1974 when we’d gone to see Jethro Tull tour their ‘Passion Play’ album.Tull, as always, had been great but I wasn’t sure about the material ?That was definitely when I’d lost all inclination to see another Prog’ Rock band.I suppose being in attendance at the Genesis ‘In Concert’ recording for the BBC hadn’t done me any favours either ?Genesis, who I’d always been in two minds about came over as too clever by half, and were blown away by the support band, who, a couple of weeks previously, had managed to drive their tour bus off an alp…Honestly, I’m not making this shit up, they really had.Everyone in the bus had survived the crash but not necessarily without breaking a few bits that they might need if they were musicians…But an ‘In Concert’ on the old Beeb was a prestigious event back in those days so they’d elected to do it regardless of the state they were in.The band’s name was Max Merritt and the Meteors.They weren’t the best band in the world that was for sure, but they certainly rocked hard enough and they went on stage with arms in slings, legs in plaster (and with crutches) head bandages, finger and wrist bandages and whatever else we couldn’t see, and proceeded to tear the roof off the sucka’ !!!The accident had been in all the old music rags like NME, Melody Maker and Sounds and nobody really gave them any hope of continuing, but they did what all good rock bands do…They ‘Went For It’ !!!And they only bloody got it.Well, they did at this gig.They laid down the gauntlet and basically said ‘Follow That’And Genesis were too prissy and arty-farty and it didn’t really happen for them.And so, to misquote an old Dustin Hoffman line… ‘That was the end of my progressive period…’I can always still listen to those that I’d bought over the years if I liked them, but the new-wave of Prog’ to which Marillion belong has always left me cold.So was I looking forward to it ? Yes and possibly no, and I’d never felt that way before.Anyway, the drive was uneventful and we fetched up first again at the Hare & Hounds, closely followed by the rest of the nutters with a few new ‘Cropredy virgins’ in tow. Karen & ShakeyPlease note that last line is what we refer to new arrivals to the festival as, it has nothing to do with anybody living in the village…And when everybody had arrived and slaked their thirsts we set off for the site. Guess where ? Well if you read this stuff regularly and I know some of you do because one of the ‘Cropredy’ posts has had more ‘hits’ than the next five posts combined, you will be [...]



Sunday had the same start.We picked up Grant and Frank and made our way over.Ben and Marcus had slept on the kit, either on the stage or under their sound desk gazebo because as far as they were concerned, sticking the whole lot together again was a definite no-no.We were supposed to have a very noisy start on the Sunday but the band concerned had switched to third after our third had managed to get herself on at Cambridge Folk Festival as well.It wasn’t going to help that she was going to have to start at twelve-thirty because of Bob’s drummers, but that was out of our hands.Oh well, whatever ?I’m glad I pulled the time back though.Those bloody drummers would definitely have drowned her.So… While we’re waiting to start a full half hour later than everybody else, we’ve actually got the time to introduce you to our crew, so here we all are…Somebody asked me once why I dress the way I do for the Festival and the answer is quite simple really.I dress so that I’m comfortable in what I’m wearing bearing in mind some of the jobs that I have to do whilst I’m there, and I also dress to be seen.The first thing artists have to do when they arrive on site and they’ve been checked in is to find me so that I know they’re around and on site.I can usually be picked out in any crowd of people, so now you know, ok ?                                 Ben and Marcus, the sound crew. Grant and Haddy, Co-Compere and Still Photographer/Merchandiser respectively.Marcus, James and Sarah, Video, Video Assistant and Video Assistant/Still Photographer respectively.                                          Bob, Trustee and Main Stage booking and me.Amy, Chair Person and overall in charge, and me.                    Sarah and Haddy. Still Photographers and Merchandiser                        Frank, Front of Stage Manager and Artist Security.  Me, snacking on the run... Haddy, with former Chair-Person and overall head honcho, Steve and Missus.                                                   Marcus (Sound) and Marcus (Video)                                                                                                                                              Joy T, Co-Compere      Joy T (Co-Compere), Shoeless Dave (Rigger) and Grant (Co-Compere) Grant. Co-CompereAnd this is Pete, the third of our Sound Crew... I think[...]



We’d picked up Frank and Grant at the appointed times and now we were off.Weather ?  Reasonable.Into the site.Greeted.Armbanded and ‘passed up’.Now we were ready, so let’s head toward the stage and see if Ben has managed to get the sound and lights sorted, and see what Sophie managed to do with her team of ‘decorators’ ?The Arcadeclectic backstage 'chill-out' area for the artists.   Pete has just heard that Justin Beiber is coming this year... Brilliant !That’s times two by the way…Ben and his assistants Marcus and Pete have performed miracles and so has Sophie.Ben, who can make anyone sound good...Nearly ready... Didn't Sophie do a brilliant job with the stage decorations...Frankly, I’m gobsmacked. It doesn’t happen often, but it definitely occurred at that moment…So while I’m collecting my thoughts and Sarah, Marcus, James and Joy start to arrive, let’s let you lot have a look around the site which has six stages set in fifteen acres of Priory grounds before the hordes get at it, shall we ?So off we go to visit a few stalls, eateries and stages...Icehouse StageSt Marys StageSt Marys backdropThe Main StageOk, you've had a look around the site and so you now know as much as I do about what's happening, don't you ? Saturday is our midday starting time, we've soundchecked and I think we’re ready to go ?Our first act is Twirling Canes.Twirling CanesI don’t know what it is about these two.They write good songs and have some good tunes but this isn’t ‘Pop’ in any sense of the word.This stuff has to be worked on by the listener.Whatever it is that they are doing, they seem to be doing it ‘right’ by us ?Beau Jangles:  Soul-Folk, Rootsy Groove ?Bloody Hell !  How do you stick a genre to these guys ?Beau JanglesA bit of funky fiddle, a bit of moody mandolin and a dollop of grooving guitar.Whatever it is, it has that roll to it that Keith Richard is fond of describing when he says that ‘any band can rock but not every band can roll…’ or something like that ?I know what it means because these guys have that ‘roll’.And then we have Fishwife’s Broadside…A sixteen legged monster who had played the festival previously but on a different stage.When they’d been booked previously they thought they were playing Arcadeclectic…They weren’t.We’d have loved to have had them but The Nettlebed Stage got there first.Now we’d finally got them and although it was going to be a bit cosy with eight people on stage the band were looking forward to it.Talking to Mark their bass player at a previous gig, he’d told me that the band loved Rhythms but were disappointed they hadn’t played the stage they’d wanted to.Well you can’t really argue with that.Fishwife's BroadsideThere will be some who will think they were lucky to play at all, but when you’re in a band you sort of ‘define’ who you are by those who have gone before and playing a particular stage is just one way of following in the footsteps of the bands that you yourself follow.I understood what he meant.Now at this point we could always branch off into the psychology of being a ‘Rock god’ but I can’t really be arsed so just take it from me, I knew what he meant and I felt quite happy about the comment.What it boils down to is that by his band’s internal psychology we were doing something right and they wanted a part of it.Well, they are definitely good enough, I wouldn't have booked them otherwise so let’s be havin’ you… one poet of the whole festival this year follows shortly.It’s not that we’re short of poets, it’s just that the timing of the artist slots didn’t really gel with putting any more on.This was a bit of a disappointment for me as far as booking was concerned but I’m quite sure the audience won’[...]



Rhythms of the World 2014 was fraught with difficulty.We’d had a few of the old guard leave after 2012 and we were breaking in new names in different positions in the hierarchy.Amy, who used to head Artist-Liason was now Chair Person along with Bob who had returned from a few years out except as a trustee.Times were changing, but you know what ?The more things change the more they remain the same.The day before the programme had gone to press I'd heard that Bob is getting some drummers who were performing and doing a workshop to play people into the festival at the nearest gate to us.Nice thought, except it was literally just up the path from us and we’d got a really good up and coming folk singing acoustic guitarist opening the day’s proceedings…And they were likely to drown her.For fuck’s sake, you’ve got to be joking ?No.And you think this is alright, me having to drop the last band in and start Kelly off thirty minutes late ?You think dropping this shit on us the day before the programme goes to press is actually fair, because if you do, I certainly don’t ?Not that moaning or swearing will ever get me anywhere so why not just shut up and drop the last band in and get on with it ?Job done.I have had to ring up a band and cancel their appearance and I am not happy about it…Bob has this idea that he wants the festival to be like an ‘All Inclusive Village Fete’ which is something I have been known to take the piss out of on more than one occasion.There’s a bit of film of me doing it on Youtube from 2009 if you want a look ?It's not perfect because I started off at 'Ramones Speed' but it's the only bit of film I've got of it. were now a band down and the cohesion of the line-up in the middle part of the afternoon was now non-existent.Hang on…No, just hang on a sec’, I’m not the fucking bad guy.I didn’t ask a bunch of drummers to play people in for thirty minutes causing us to start thirty minutes late because they’ll drown out an acoustic folk singer, did I ?Why not take some fucking responsibility and accept that I wasn’t even given a choice ?Why indeed ?I cut a band to try and get back on course after being crapped on.The powers that be didn’t seem to like it, probably because they have had to take responsibility for the change.I had no option except to start later because it would be massively unfair on any artist to have to compete soundwise.I KNOW how loud acoustic drums are and when you’ve got about a dozen all hammering a rhythm at the same time then believe me, It’s going to be LOUD.So…We’re sorted.I'm not bloody arguing. We’re starting thirty minutes late.And with two weeks to go, we had another disaster…We’ve had a drop-out.To be fair it was through family illness and there’s not a lot anybody can do about that except wish them all the best and not to worry.Family comes first.And so I’m back on the ‘phone… Guess what ?We’ve had a drop-out and you guys are back in.Honestly, you couldn’t make it up. We went to inspect the site and attend the Stage Manager’s briefing the evening beforehand.More to make sure I’d actually got a stage because I certainly wasn’t about to go through that shit again,but there it was and damn near ready to go.Sophie had left me a message that she wanted to see me about stage decorations and so off we trouped trying to find her, which eventually we did.Did I want all the decorations in the same colours as the kids backdrop as I think you told me they were the colours on the Gambian flag ?Sophie, you’re a darling.Yes. If it could be done then that’d be great.Ok. I’ll get the team on it.Now you’re talking.The decorations they are putting up and around the site look very effective.  Oi’ Chris, go and have a look at you[...]



While all this has been occurring I’ve been trawling through all the acts that have applied to play at Rhythms… It is a thankless task because there are far too many ‘Grrrrraaaaaah’ bands.Heavy rock bands all of whom seem to think that unintelligible lyrics and fuck all talent will get them booked ?Well it might, but not down our way.But nestling away at number eighty-eight in the applications is a prime contender for anybody’s stage and not just ours.A resonator guitarist and a tabla player who play the blues as if it came not just from the Mississippi delta but the Ganges delta as well ?Taj Mahal would definitely love these guys.The only problem being expense…They’re based in Wales which I’m quite certain will necessitate a stay over ?So contact is made…  And it will.They’re on.I’ve got them.Quite why none of the other stages booked them I cannot say, all I will say is that they are the sort of artists that we thrive on.They have their own ‘sound’ and they play it well.They’re in keeping with the ethos of the stage and the festival and they’re what Rhythms is all about for us.Vive La Difference !!! Commerciality ?Pah !!!Who needs it when you can get acts like this ?And then there's the band from our old mucker Dochan's stable from Glasgow.I'd listened to their first tracks and thought they sounded a bit Richard Thompson'y, so I was definitely interested. Their later stuff was just as impressive and I really liked them, so we've got another four piece sleep-over coming off the budget.Finally in March the big announcement is made and thankfully it all goes according to plan.Now everybody knows what’s happening.  The outpouring of goodwill toward the festival from all manner of people is one of the most amazing things that we all seem to deal with. It seems to come from everybody.All the local ‘tribes’ whether hippie, goth, punk, rocker, psychie’, soulboy, ragamuffin, folkie, country and Uncle Tom Cobley an’ all, plus it would seem, a fairly large percentage of their parents and grandparents.They all support it.It has it’s ‘knockers’ as well.But they seem to number less than a hundred ?Actually the amount doesn’t matter.What does matter is that negligible amount have the ability in law to totally fuck it up for everybody else.And so the meetings with Councillors begin…And when everything is sorted to their satisfaction then we can finally announce the date.Budgets for Rhythms are a strange beast.Up until we re-located from the town centre to The Priory we got nothing and I had to beg.But ever since we moved I get a small budget for the stage which mainly covers expenses.It can be a bit difficult trying to pay expenses for about twenty acts but we do what we can.This year my budget has gone up slightly but all stay-over expenses have to come out of it so the reality is that I’m working with the same amount I had back in 2012. Come the end of May and I’m drained and not just physically and mentally.Far too much time spent in answering late night e-mails and telephone calls and it’s fair to say that I don’t want to see the computer for at least a month.Having said that, we are at least on target for the cut-off date.This is good bearing in mind we are sharing the dates with the Cambridge Folk Festival…So any chance of taking a rest is now taken over by artists who want to play both for us and for them wishing to change their allotted time in the programme.I will accommodate this where it’s practical but you can’t always do it.The annoying thing is that it usually wrecks any cohesive flow to the acts on the stage.It’s all well and good just sticking acts down as a line-up but without any thought behind it you’ll get a lot less of an audience and that doesn’t do anybody a[...]



So, here we are back in the UK and it’s quiet.Normally I’d be like a swan right now.Gracefully floating out on the water but paddling like fuck underneath it trying to sort out a stage for Rhythms of the World but at this moment, although rumours are everywhere, there is absolutely nothing occurring.Oh well, whatever…Actually that's not entirely accurate.The country is experiencing a bit of wind...And being perched at the top of a hill, we're getting some of it.And it's getting worse...And worse.Until, late one night...One of our fence panels flew into next door's garden.The greenhouse was damn near turned inside out...And we went to bed a bit later than usual !!!Haddy in the meantime has resolved to go the final mile and get British citizenship.It’s another thousand plus pounds, plus another load of tests at examination centres.Because she’s of African descent and not European she has to be able to prove that she can read, write and understand the English language, but at least this last hurdle applies to every immigrant as opposed to the previous ones which don’t apply to Europeans.Christmas just seems to come and go.We spend Christmas day at my Mother’s as usual because at her age she is really unable to travel far at all.I got to cook the dinner which seemed to turn out ok. Still it was a nice day except for the travelling down.The M25 has to be one of the worst roads in the country at busy periods and Christmas is definitely quite busy.Most of my time is now spent working because with the size of the citizenship bill the overtime is going to come in handy.The fact that it now seems that the whole country is under water just adds to the ‘enjoyment’ of the times…It now seems like it's been raining for ever.It’s cold.It’s wet.And it’s bloody uncomfortable when you are out in it and soaked to the skin because your ‘so-called’ waterproofs aren’t.In truth it’s fucking horrible and it seems like the whole of the country has the miseries ?Although to be fair, living at the top of a hill we are better off than a lot of the population, even some that we know.Some are under ten feet of water… So there we are, time is passing, the floods are receding, we’re both working our socks off, and we get the ‘very worrying’ telephone call from the kids…Apparently Housainatou is being blackmailed ?It turns out that the son of the owner of the money shop (a bit like Western Union over here) where she works, who had already told us he wanted to marry her sister has decided to, how shall I put it nicely ?Lose some money that she’d signed for, which would only reappear if he was formally introduced to her sister Hassanatou with a view to marriage…Needless to say they were both a little worried about this to say the least.Housai’,because she was being used as a pawn in his nefarious little scheme, and Hassa’ because she couldn’t stand the slimy little shit.Now this sort of behaviour might be common in some countries including theirs but it’s not something that we tend to have to deal with that often in the UK.He thinks, as quite a few do out there, that money can buy him anything he wants and being the boss’s son entitles him to treat young women as objects that he can buy as he wishes and discard whenever he likes.Unfortunately for him he has picked on the wrong two young women, and certainly the wrong family to try that crap on with…So, how much will Housai’ miss the job ?She wants out, and NOW !!!And Hassa’ ?She’s worried about her sister’s name getting tarnished.Ok, so here’s what we’re going to do…Housai’ is going to ‘act’ all ‘worried’ (that bit wasn’t too difficult, she was…) and tell him that she’s talking to her sister, and Hassa’ is not going to v[...]



So there we were…Ready to leave again, except we weren’t really.We’re going to miss the kids, it’s as simple as that.There is something intrinsically wrong with a system that only allows one-way traffic.We have to fly two thousand, nine hundred miles to see our children for the price of an air ticket and that is apparently no problem ???There is the small matter of over two hundred and fifty pounds plus each on a six hundred pound ticket going toward ‘Green Taxes’ which is just one more reason that ‘The Greens’ are NEVER going to get my vote because there are sod-all other countries doing it, but…It doesn’t work in reverse.If the kids want to come and see us then they have to pay approximately the same, plus they have to fill in the form and pay for a visa to do it.No matter that we support them, pay for their food, schooling and living expenses, they still have to pay our government for the privilege of doing so and this visa lasts six months.In that time they can do a small number of things but most are denied them.You can always read the damn documentation for yourselves… course if they were European children then they can come here without a visa and their families can do anything they choose, including claim all the benefits that our own citizens receive and then jump in front of our own social housing queue !!!And all because Gordon Brown signed a treaty ?There is seriously something wrong with that system, not least because it is discriminatory and the UK government could be accused of running an ‘Apartheid’ system on immigration.Think I’m joking ?Ok, consider this…Pre nineteen ninety seven we had a normal immigration system.It seemed to work pretty much like every other country’s, in that if you had relatives in the UK then you could join them and there wasn’t too much of a problem doing so.When the Labour government under Tony B’liar came to power he flung open the borders to all and sundry.(Ok, it’s a bit simplistic but it IS accurate)You also have to remember that back then the UK saw a rise in membership of the British National Party or B.N.P.This so-called ‘political party’ called for an end to immigration and the repatriation of every black and brown person in the country.Which was a bit silly in that many of those they wanted repatriated were actually second, third and fourth generation British !!!They had been born in the UK and were as English, Scots, Irish or Welsh as I am.The reality of living through those times and the arguments that ensued are still reverberating to this day.So B'liar and his successor Gordon Brown threw open the UK’s borders to all and sundry, but what they did not do was make it a condition of entry that these new entries were not entitled to the UK’s benefit system until they had been in the country for a few years.This was the stumbling block and one that the B.N.P. capitalised on.All these black and brown immigrants whose ideas, traditions and culture were sometimes diametrically opposed to the UK’s were being funded by the population of the United Kingdom and that is where the B.N.P. actually scored the point that is still causing the problems that my own family face today.The Labour Party’s rationale had been that all these immigrants were going to be so pleased to be there and receiving the same benefits and social security as every other citizen that they would show their gratitude by voting for them ad-infinitum.Unfortunately, the general population weren’t exactly enamoured of the idea.But Labour, choosing the moral high ground, decided to brand everybody who queried what was going on, a racist.What was THAT Gordon Brown quote again ?'Bigot' wasn’t it ?And lurk[...]



It was now nearly time to leave.For three weeks of seeing the family and friends and getting a few things sorted out it had certainly been an eventful break.And we HAD actually managed to get a few things sorted out and had a little bit of fun along the way and you can’t really ask more from life than that.But all good things eventually come to an end and ours was rapidly approaching because we were in our last week and the two youngest had gone back to school, but before we left I had one more job to do.Before we’d arrived in The Gambia we’d got Mariama and Jalika to go and see their headmistress at Gola Fortunate and ask if she minded running a little competition between all the children who had contributed toward the Rhythms of The World backdrop that they had created for us, and she had been happy to do so.One of the things Rhythms does on a regular basis is sell out of children’s sized t-shirts and we’d managed to get hold of five of them before they had done so.Two were going to Mariama and Jalika, but the other three would be going to the school as prizes.There was going to be one question only and the best three answers in the Headmistresses opinion would be the three winners.The competition was held while we were in The Gambia, the three winners had been adjudged, and now it was time to present the prizes.The question that we’d asked the children was ‘Why do you think it is important that music brings the world together ?’And so early in the morning of our second to last day we were walking up to Gola Fortunate once again.This time we’d given them the first hour and so we’d see the headmistress first and ask her how she wanted to do it. Whether in the classrooms or in her office ? The Headmistress decided on her office, and sent a runner to fetch the first winner.When she turned up the poor lass thought she’d done something wrong, but seeing us there as well hopefully put her mind at rest ? Our second winner was unfortunately not at school that day, but our third winner was, and so we praised her also and said thank you very much for being part of the whole Rhythms of The World thing.Their contribution would be gracing the stage again next year so long as we had a festival and although they were only rumours, it did look like it was actually going to happen again as a proper festival and not the three gigs we had this year.We took a few pictures with everybody’s permission and the Headmistress got us copies of the winning entries and I have to admit I was impressed with their efforts.Ok, I’m writing this after the event from notes I took at the time, but you have to admit they came pretty close to what it’s all about.Here’s Ida Secka’s winning entry:Here’s Amie Camara’s winning entry: And here’s Amie Ceesay’s winning entry: Do you notice anything strange ? The winners were all girls.I’m guessing that had the question been asked in the UK or the USA or Japan, or most of Europe even, then we’d have had at least one boy or possibly two among them ?The whole music thing is definitely predominantly male based in the UK although the women do come through occasionally.It’s more prevalent in the USA because a. The country is a lot larger, and b. The genres are authentic to the differing regions and so girls growing up learning their family’s instruments are a lot more common.  And before we get into arguments on the subject, I’m talking about musicians, and NOT winners of television talent shows.When did a real group or a real singer/songwriter ever win one of those ?You could probably count them on the fingers of one hand after you’ve had an industrial accident !Too cynical ?I don’t think so.So what I was [...]



Well we all woke up early and that’s a fact.You can’t really not when you’ve got a small mosque about two hundred yards away and a quite large one about four hundred yards away.The small one starts the call to prayers at five-thirty and they are louder than the larger one so anybody looking to sleep in would probably need ear-muffs, but at least it means we get first go in the shower for the hot water.We had asked everybody over the course of the previous week to PLEASE not hang about in the morning because we would be at certain places along the route to pick people up at particular times, but there’s always going to be one who doesn’t make it and has to get there under their own power.A quick breakfast and before you can turn around Ida is here from over the road.One.I’m not sure how well the plates got washed up by the smaller contingent of the family but then we can always yell at them tomorrow !!!The people carrier is here with the guys so numbers two to seven have just been accomplished.Amadou will be at the top of the road and Fat’ Cham is nowhere in sight.Jali Bakary and Mariettou we pick up further along on the road to Sanyang where we will be stopping for provisions.Right, the gang is nearly all here, so let’s get it on… Amadou is now in, and Jali and Mariettou are waiting for us outside the small provision shop at Chinchu Alagie.It’s a bit of a nuisance the kids not having armbands for the sea having left them in a taxi on a previous occasion, but it can’t be helped and since we are officially about a month outside the holiday season we can’t expect any of the shops to have any. It just means that I’m going to be one bruised and scratched Dad after going in with them.If any of the others go in I know it’ll be later in the afternoon but children who see water ALWAYS seem to want to get in it as soon as they can, and ours are no exception.Of course when the first big wave hits then they’ll all grab me to hang on to…Hence the bruises.While we’re at Tanje (pronounced tan-gee, as in whiz) Amadou asks if I know the track that he’s been blasting into his ears via his headphones ?It’s definitely something that both his Mother and I have been known to blast out on occasions, and I suppose singing the chorus back at him gave the game away somewhat…‘Honey you shake, I’ll rattle, we can roll on down the line… See if we can’t get in touch with a very close friend of mine… ‘Well that’s all you’re getting, so do you know what it is ?It’s a ‘classic’ album track from the second album.Any fan of ‘Classic Rock’ from the nineteen seventies should be able to place it and I can’t be arsed to tell you, but bless him, Amadou thinks it’s the dog’s dangly bits (I’m being polite, ok ?) and he’s really got into it.Funny how some artists just seem to get under people’s skin ?So far we’ve got Mum, Mariama and Amadou into this guy’s music and they all like different songs, but that’s the great thing about music.It crosses all borders of country, race, colour, religion, and any other damned obstacle that people have a habit of throwing in your way as we all stagger blindly from one world crisis to another…It turns out Amadou has got the complete double greatest hits cd on his iPod. See… Our family have good taste.If you can’t get the track from the chorus then you’re either no rock fan or far too young,  and you can google it if you want the artist, cos I’m not an information service for ‘Failed Rock fans…’ Oh, I like that.Failed Rock fans.Great expression, and I might have to use it again sometime ?That’s pissed off a few of you, no doubt ?Hahahahaha…Oh[...]



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 th[...]



Time is getting on…There aren’t that many days left before we’re going to have to leave again.We’ve booked the last weekend for a day at Sanyang on the beach because most of the gang are free at the same time.As it is currently, most of our time is spent at the compound with Haddy trying to get her bits sorted out, which, true to form is the usual two steps forward and one step back routine.You get given a name and which office they are in, but they are usually out and it involves an awful lot of sitting around and waiting…Still, she’s used to it.I, on the other hand, am not.Truth be told it drives me nuts, but we’re getting there slowly.So there we were, just sitting in the compound one morning at around ten o’clock after breakfast and this little lad opened the gate and came in…I looked at him, looked back toward Haddy and then turned and had another look…Is it ?It has to be because he’s a dead-ringer for his Father.Samsidine ?I spoke his name and there was the trace of a smile in his otherwise solemn look.And I was out of my chair and shaking his hand before offering him my seat.It turns out that he was back over the road living with his Grandparents.My late friend Ebrima’s widow who was now working on a market stall, was going to settle down again with her current partner and so she had kept their daughter Amie with her and let Samsidine go to his Grandparents.Apparently he’d been there for most of the Tobaski break but had not ventured over to see us, possibly, from what we were able to ascertain, through a bit of shyness at his new surroundings and family.But he was here now, that was the main thing.The last time we’d seen him he was a few months old sitting in his Mother’s lap, but now he was a big four year old.Is it really that long ?Time only seems to show its face through the ages of the children.They get older and they grow.Shit !If I’d known he was over the road, I’d have gone over to meet him, but who knew ?If our lot knew then they hadn’t let on but we’d find out later, what was important was that he was here now. Haddy was the perfect hostess, putting him at his ease and when he left to go back after about an hour, I said I’d take him.So we walked over the road, me holding his little hand until we got back to his compound…‘Hey… Samsidine, you’ve brought Uncle Chris…’And I got the handshakes and the hugs from Ebrima’s brothers and Mother.So I sat and ate nuts, which it seemed everybody was shelling, for ten minutes while they all chatted away.One thing I can say with certainty is that they were all glad to have him there.Obviously it was going to be one more mouth to feed, but that didn’t matter.What mattered most was that he was back with them.His Father had died when he was a couple of months old and his extended family had been unhappy about his Mother taking him, but he’d returned.Nobody knew if it was going to be forever, but at that moment it didn’t matter.All that mattered was that he was back.I asked his family to please tell Samsidine that he would always be welcome at our compound, as would his sister if she was visiting, and I got up to leave. And it wasn’t only me holding the emotions in check, we were all doing it.If I made it back over the road without breaking down in tears it was going to be a miracle…At least I managed to get to the front gate before going inside and sitting by myself for a couple of minutes just to compose myself.What is it with this place ?Back in the UK nobody shows any real emotion at all.It’s like it’s hidden under a veneer of respectability and composure, but here, in T[...]



And slowly we returned to something like normality…The twins had finally got their Tobaski outfits, which made the pair of them look absolutely stunning.Housai’ had received an invite to a works do at one of the top hotels and had decided that she’d take her sister along…What to wear, that was the question ?And Little ‘Tapha was finally going to start school again.I don’t know how it had started, but Haddy and ‘Tapha Kebbeh along with a couple of others had said they would pool resources if the local Islamic School would take him ?Between them they would pay for uniforms, books and the rest.This was fine by the school so long as he was of a reasonable standard and he behaved himself.Well as far as I’m concerned he’s of a reasonable standard but who knows what a school is looking for these days ?Whatever it is, he managed to pass the test and so from next term he’s going.That is a weight off everybody’s mind, mine included.It's school uniform next 'Tapha...He’s a very bright lad, and ok, he would have to start in the younger year but his natural intelligence should get him back to his own peer group within eighteen months at the most at a good guess ?He seems pleased about the idea anyway, so I think they’ve done the right thing by getting him in.And Haddy and I are now off to Banjul to see Uncle Pa.When we go we always see him at his office and today would be no exception.So off we went, up to the main road, and caught the first mini-bus that could fit us in.It’s such a small world sometimes because we sat next to my drummer friend Hadim’s sister and her little girl, who for some reason took in instant shine to me and started playing…Most of the little ones are ok with me once they realise a. I’m a different colour, and b. Whatever hair I have left is real, but this one decided that sitting on my lap and poking me in the eye was infinitely more preferable than doing it to her Mum who just let her get on with it, while she and Haddy caught up on the usual women’s stuff.We parted at Banjul. They were going shopping, but I reckon we’ll see them later when we hit the market…Pa has invited us out.He’ll be round for us this evening.Apparently we are going for a meal and then we’re off to a Karaoke bar ?Hmmm….Gambian karaoke eh ?That’ll be different.So we left Pa at work and hit the market…Baddou’s in, but Hadim isn’t as yet but he’s expected.Guess who else we bumped into ?What do you reckon.Could I get a job as an unregistered child-minder (that’s baby-sitter to you…) ?Babysitting in Banjul craft marketApparently so long as she has her (empty) cigarette lighter to suck, she’s fine.Before anyone thinks that is irresponsible, she’s had it for a couple of months now, and apart from sleeping, won’t go anywhere without it.I didn’t do too badly, as she only cried when she dropped it…The word seems to have travelled as now Hadim, Makumba and Doudou have arrived and as usual the talk turns to the band. They are still stuck for the money to record the second album.If there was only some way of helping them then I would, but this trip is going to put us back to zero in the bank balance department.Still, they are getting a few gigs at some of the hotels and that’s good. Ok, it’s a fixed rate, and they have always refused so far to ‘pass the bucket’ but at least they have been selling a few cd’s to the tourists.It’s better than nothing and it keeps them in a ‘ready’ condition.It’s soul destroying knowing that there’s this seriously good band of musicians who just want to play their music for[...]



Today Haddy and I are off to Killy.All the boxes we’d earmarked for them are already there, and finally we have a village full of people…Here we go again, but this time it’s just me and Haddy stuck in overcrowded minibuses for about two and a half hours each way with a half-hour wait in the middle at Brikama where we change over.At least the vendors aren’t trying to overcharge everybody with their water, snacks and juices while we’re waiting, but finally we’re off and running…Not for very long though, if the sound from the engine of our minibus is anything to go by ?About fifteen minutes after I told Haddy ‘I don’t like the sound of that engine…’ we coasted to a halt.The driver is out and the bonnet is up but whatever he seems to do is not getting us started and that’s a fact, and so he makes a couple of calls on his mobile ‘phone, and we wait…In absolutely stifling heat, I may add.About twenty minutes later a ‘spare part’ arrives by car and the poor old engine is bashed, smashed and beaten until the part is attached.It doesn’t look as if it’s the right part because now the driver cannot close the lid of the engine box on the inside of the bus, which means that the front three rows, of which we are one, can see the internal workings of the actual engine, plus the ground on which we are driving…But necessity being the mother of invention, our driver has managed to get the engine started again for which a round of applause is given by the passengers, and I don’t think they were being particularly sarcastic in doing so, either. And a good hour later than we should have been, we finally alight at Killy...And Haddy takes me round...The original well at Killy. Source of their only water until the pipes were laidIf you click on the link below you will see what and where...  Haddy's neighboursOusman is there waiting for us, and we are taken straight to his compound for a cooling drink of water, which I have to say, has NEVER tasted so good as it did at that moment.I think I must have lost about five pounds in weight just in sweat during the journey ?It’s going to take about an hour to get all the villagers together from their outlying farms and compounds but at least they know it’s finally occurring.As soon as the vast majority are gathered, the boxes start coming out and there is obvious anticipation from the locals.Carrying the local tea leaves prior to drying them...One thing about Killy.My wife used to teach their children after she gave up being headmistress of Rex Nursery in Fajikunda.She did it after she moved back to The Gambia when her five years was up in the UK so quite a few of the population still call her ‘Mistress’ which is the name they give teachers over there.Because it is quite a trek to get there and a teacher’s salary is quite small she used to stay over during the week and only go back to see her own family at weekends so they do know her quite well, but I’ve digressed again…The boxes are coming out, the piles of clothing are being tipped out so that people can see them, and the crowd is getting larger by the minute.There are actually seven boxes full.For some reason I thought we'd sent five (out of eight) but the reality is we sent ten out and seven went to Killy. The local Imam has arrived and sat down on the proffered chair and he will be getting the first offering, which, when it comes, is a small pair of brand new curtains which somebody donated because they didn’t fit their window (should have measured and not guess[...]



Yippee !!!I’ve finally got a day with the kids.Haddy’s off to a naming ceremony, and although I’ve also got an invite I’m begging off.So if everything goes ok, then I’ve got the whole middle section of the day from about ten thirty to three and that’ll suit me fine.More than enough time to just let them run riot.It’s difficult after school because Ida is currently getting extra lessons and so all the evenings give them about an hour and it’s not enough for them to practice much.At least they’ve been getting about three hours every Friday but if they are actually going to do anything then they are going to need a lot more than that.But it’s a chance to have a first look and listen.And… I get to sort out their lunch or at least a snack half way through.Come the day and Sibo sorts the midday snack first thing in the morning.It’s only a bit of rice and a few veggie bits and bobsI’ve just added three small lemony tasting meatballs each so that’ll keep us going.We have drinks in the freezer, batteries in the video camera and minidisk recorder and so it looks like we’re all set ? Now all we need is Ida…Right, Ida’s arrived and so we all retire to Mum’s bedroom.All the drums are on the floor in front of the wardrobes as are three chairs.The percussion is all at the end of the bed in piles.A pile of shakers, a pile of calabash and percussion eggs, a child’s plastic tambourine which will have to do until I can get them the real thing, and Mariama’s small balofon.I’ve stuck the minidisk recorder on a tray halfway down the bed so that they don’t keep knocking it.Basically everything they might want to pick up is in easy reach of the three of them, so let’s get it on.First things first…Sit the three of them down and explain slowly and patiently what I need from them which is literally just them doing their thing vocally and with drums and percussion.I don’t expect miracles but I do want them to be themselves and not to pretend that they are somebody else singing the songs.Hopefully they will treat today as a practice and although I’m going to record them for listening later, probably when I’m back in the UK, any mistakes won’t really matter.If they can sing together then let’s have a good try at doing just that.Just pick any song that you all know and have a go at it.Any changes or mistakes can be talked through later.Today I just need the ‘feel’ of the three of them with the songs and so we won’t be doing any half-learned English things, just the songs that they know and grew up singing.It doesn’t matter how many times they sing it either, once, twice, three times, it doesn’t matter, all that matters is how they put the songs over.Preferably going on to another song if they keep getting one wrong and coming back to the previous one when they’ve tried out another…And… There shouldn’t be any interruptions so there shouldn’t be any pressure (famous last words…) Oh, and one last thing…IF you are a group then try to be a group. I don’t want to hear any of you trying to boss the others about because that won’t work at all… Are you listening Sibo, because you are prone to doing it ?So please, just relax and sing songs, play drums, play percussion, however you want to do it will be fine by me.All I need is to hear what you can do and after that we’ll take it from there… Two hours later and they stop for their first drink.The minidisk has been recording everything and I’ve got a bit on the video camera.A fifteen minute break to stretc[...]



It’s day two and Baddou and Yama and the family are coming back for another go.Not that it matters because we still have more than enough lamb for all of us.Mind you, the way people eat out here there won’t be any left at the end of the day and that’s for sure…As it’s the second day we are expecting all the locals to turn up dressed ‘European’ so this could be fun.Not the adults, just the children and younger teenagers, and they will still be asking for money…Oh well, tradition is tradition but if they did that in the U.K. then their parents would all be arrested for sending their children out to beg and Social Services would be doing their level best to take all the children into care…You ever thought why Social Services are called that ?I’ve always felt that those letters SS suit them to perfection…They certainly seem to act like the Gestapo in a lot of the cases highlighted by the newspapers and probably a lot more we are never likely to hear about ?But this is different.This is 'Sallybo'.This is more like it should be.Well, that’s what I think, anyway.To be fair they do tend to pick on family, friends and relatives as opposed to the general population but it’s not always the case.I still remember getting totally ‘mugged’ by the lads who staked out the entrance to the African Village Hotel and clobbered every tourist either going in or coming out.Ok, fair enough you don’t have to give them anything, but they had made a serious effort and I still think that their cheek added to a little bit of tenacity should have been rewarded.So… Wash, get dressed, eat breakfast, clean house and compound, do chores (like last night’s washing up…) wash again, get dressed up…And beg !I know Mariama and Jalika have plans but I have no idea what as yet ?The day is just flashing by.Baddou and Yama will be here in the early afternoon after their family have done the same.Apparently I am to go over to the local shop and buy a whole bottle of lollipops and a couple of packets of chewy sweets as most of our money has run out ?Ok, sweets it is.That’s going to disappoint the local kids, I know that.Still, they hit us big time yesterday so they’ll just have to lump it.I did actually film our pair getting ready so if you want to watch it you can click on this link…, Haddy switched to English while I was filming it and so you’ll get the idea a little easier than if she’d stuck to Wolof ?Then of course Ida turned up, and the triumvirate was complete…Giggles, Sibo & Little Miss Ali: Blood SistersThey were out for about three hours and when they came back they shot inside to their bedroom with Ida and fifteen minutes later came out after dividing their ill-gotten gains…Three hundred and sixty four dalasi each.EACH ?That’s over one thousand dalasi which for an afternoon of blagging money from everybody they knew isn’t a bad haul, is it ?They’d clobbered ‘Tapha Kebbeh and their elder brother Amadou, and then Ida had taken them off to one of her relatives and they had done him over as well.Everybody they knew had been targeted.At one point they even got a taxi into Westfield to fleece somebody else.Christ !!!You’ve got to hand it to them.It still makes me laugh just thinking about it.And Mariama is so plausible…‘Ten dalasi ? For Sallybo ?  What can we buy with ten dalasi ?   You are rich and we are just children needing pencils for school.  If that is all you have, then ple[...]



It’s Tobaski…Crunch time !Do I or don’t I ? First things first, cold shower because the kids have nicked all the hot water, get dressed and think about breakfast…Sardines in baguette thingie (the bigger one than a tapa-lapa) which I’m always forgetting the name of, followed by a large cup of tea and wander outside into direct sunlight.I think it’s going to be a hot one because it’s not so muggy as yesterday, besides we are still in the rainy season so when it builds up it really does build up.Banging on the gates !!!It’s Fansu from over the road, and he’s brought a friend with him…Fansu delivering dinner...Four legs, ugly, and bleating away like a good’un. Which brings all the kids out and Fansu’s mate is immediately christened…I knew this was going to happen.Now it’s got a name I might not want to kill it, but on the other hand we called it ‘Gaddafi’ so I still might ?I've paid out about a hundred quid for this ? Anyway, Fansu says it needs a wash, and so the scrubbing brush comes out while ‘Gaddafi’ starts eating every bit of leaf it can reach on Haddy’s shrubs.Finally the job is done and Fansu says he’ll be back in about an hour, while ‘Gaddafi’ is tethered to where he can do the least harm.Gaddafi More banging on the gates and Baddou and his family have arrived. N'Dey, looking a bit sad...YamaHis sister has recently died and so he has taken over the looking after of her two children also, so we’ve got N’Dey and his sister’s two, plus baby Awa and wife Yama.Baby AwaBaddou's late sister's pair (sorry kids, but I don't have your names)Eldest daughter Haddy has gone to one of her friends where she has an invite so she’ll be the missing one today. It’s a shame but Baddou’s sister’s little girl is definitely not well.I think it’s probably just a cold, but we’ll keep an eye out to make sure she’s alright.The lad is fine though, doesn’t seem as if anything is wrong with him ?He looks about eight to ten years, but is quite striking in his outfit, and he does look out for his little sister.Kawsu’s arrived…Something is going on.And it’s not just Gaddafi, I can smell it ?And finally…No.I will not be killing Gaddafi because I am not a Muslim and to be done properly he needs the prayer before they do it !!!YOU RATBAGS !!!Cue laughter track... (from EVERYBODY ELSE in the compound)You’ve all kept me wound up for the last how many months telling me that because I’m head of the household I have to do it, and now I don’t ?And what’s more even Sibo and Jalika were in on it ?Ha bloody ha !Good joke.Just don’t ask me for any pocket money because I’ve seriously been having kittens over having to do it, now I’m going to get my own back…Ok, the butt of the joke is me, but how they all managed to keep straight faces through God knows how many skype calls over the last few months is beyond me ?That has to be one of the best wind-up’s ever. But I will have my revenge…I think it’s Awa and the twins who perpetrated it with Haddy’s collusion ?Damn !!!I need a beer…So… Everybody has been offered a drink and everybody is here except Fansu, therefore I’m going to sort out today’s 'sounds' which are a judicious mixture of Gambian stuff that they know, Youssou N’Dour which they also know, a few of the kid’s favourites and a few of Haddy’s and mine.Want to know what the playlist included ?Youssou N’Dour, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Mickey Hart Band, Grateful Dead, Los[...]



Apparently we will not be seeing Ida, Omar and baby Haddy over Tobaski as they will be going to stay with Amadou’s parents in their village.Sibo with Ida Lee's baby HaddyIda has been showing us the dress that Amadou made for her, and I have to admit it is a beautiful garment and she looks stunning in it, but Amadou hasn’t had much luck recently. His workshop had recently been burgled and many of his clients clothes had been taken, including the one he’d made for Ida, and so he’d had to start all over again, not just on hers but everybody else’s also.The fact that a couple of his sowing machines went along with them is causing him some serious concern.When he lays out the facts then you immediately realise that whoever did it knows his movements and so it is more likely to be somebody he knows.It’s a sad reflection on a society that so far, hasn’t gone down the Western road.It’s rife in the UK.The local newspapers are all full of stories about people stealing from people they know, and now it seems to have started here ?How sad is that ?I’ll tell you what…The bankers that caused the monetary collapse back in 2008 have one hell of a lot to answer for.Once the problem filters down into countries like The Gambia, that’s when you realise the enormity of their crime.People here had a struggling economy to start with, and being petrol based when the price of fuel goes up then the price of everything else goes up with it.And when people without a safety net cannot afford basic food-stuffs to live on, then some will  resort to theft.It’s happening all over the world but still nobody wants to prosecute those who caused it.The thieves get prosecuted when caught but those who put them in the situation where theft is their only option will always walk away scot-free.It’s not right and it never will be.But these are the times we live in…Corruption and graft permeate governments throughout the world.It’s the day before Tobaski and we’re off to Killy. (Pronounced ‘Keely’)I’ve done the journey before, but it’s quite a long drive and this time we’ve got a small truck and Kawsu, Hassanatou, Haddy and me are squeezed into the driver’s cab along with the driver.In the back we’ve got five boxes of clothes that Haddy has managed to blag from people over here.Basically, if they’ve got kids and even if they haven’t, we’re on the scrounge for all their outgrown clothes.Adults stuff too, all is welcome although it has to be said, female clothing is preferred.All they have to do is donate it and Haddy will pay to ship them to The Gambia.So far there are eight boxes and a bag sitting in her unoccupied shop waiting for us to get there and donate to those who actually need something.Now it’s time to get five boxes of assorted clothing out to Killy, where Osman, the head man of the village will get it out to all the villagers in the Killy locality.Describing Killy ?It’s quite a poor farming village is probably the easiest way of describing it ?I have heard that they have recently got running water instead of having to draw it all from a well, but I don’t know if it’s true ?  Anyway, it could also be described as in the interior of the country, just a short ride from The President’s village at Kanilai, and my wife owns some land there which she lets out to Ousman to grow things on. Which, if he’s successful, Ousman will deliver a sackload of, to the kids, who will then barter whatever it[...]



Honestly, the look on Hassanatou’s face was priceless, and the look on Jalika’s was just as good…So, big hugs all round and we find out that everybody else is out.Obviously Housai’ and Awa are at work and apparently Mariama is doing one of her after-school activities so she’s expected back at about five, but Ida Lee and Omar are about, and I even get a hug from the little monster.Omar.  The little lad is growing fast...Little ‘Tapha gives me a handshake and that’s it.It’s not going to be all because as soon as we’d stepped out of the taxi the word was going out.At least we can get the suitcases into the house before we’re trampled underfoot.Mariama appears just after five.Obviously she’s pleased to see us, but grumpy about being conned.She’s the only one who didn’t know anything was going on because by now Housai’, Awa, Amadou and Sainabou have all received texts from their sister.Amadou will be over tonight, and Sainabou with baby Adama will be over early tomorrow evening…It’ll be the first time we’ll have seen our grandaughter.The early part of the evening was spent greeting everybody and I don’t mind telling you, it leaves me totally knackered.The fact that I’d now been up and awake for thirty six hours because I just cannot sleep on aircraft is beginning to take its toll and whether it’s considered rude or not, I just want to get my head down and sleep.But finally, after being awake for about forty three hours, I manage to crawl into bed.At least tomorrow is a Saturday and the little ones don’t have to go to school.Now, we’ve got rather a lot to do in the three weeks that we’ve actually got here and they are as follows :One.  Get the wooden panels sorted out on the patio under the roof because they have taken in so much water when the roof had holes in it that they are beginning to rot, and besides, they are a haven for mosquitoes so that is a definite.Two.  Get some of the clothes that Haddy and I have been blagging off friends and sending out for the past year, to Killy village where Haddy owns a piece of land.Three.  Sort out Tobaski.Four.  Let Mariama and Jalika have a session when they are singing together without ANY interruptions, because at some point somebody is going to have to tell them if they are any good and I know for a fact that particular job is going to get delegated to me…Five.  Find a day when we can all get out to Sanyang for a day at the beach with the ‘extended’ family.Six.   Find a day when we can take the little ones swimming in a hotel pool in peace and quiet.Seven.  Visit Macumba and Hadim on the market and finally give them the film of the two practice sessions which I’ve finally managed to extricate from ‘computer hell’.Eight.  Visit Uncle Pa.Nine.   Do all the other things that I’ve forgotten about.Ten.   Visit all those people that my wife says we ought to…Eleven.   Visit Gola Fortunate and give out the ‘Rhythms’ t-shirts to the winners of the school competition that we’ve instigated via Mariama and the headmistress.Twelve.  Find a day when I can be left in peace to cook for the family… Yeah, right !Chance would be a fine thing…Isn’t that enough ?I’ll tell you one thing, with only three weeks and running on Gambian time I’m still not sure if we’re going to get it all done, so let’s see what we can do, eh [...]



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…AAAAAARRRRGH !!!!!!!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 s[...]