NO NOISE - PART 3
14th July 2014
Welcome to GMT - Gambian Maybe Time - was the welcome in the airport on arrival in Banjul. Tiny, Impoverished, ripe for the corruption that drug dealers trail behind themselves around the planet, like comets of death. The wreckage of Radio Caroline, squatting, rotten on the mangrove swamps. Water like tar. Another African country whose only true hope was the tourist.
The bags are ticked with a chalk mark as they leave the plane and the trolley brings them to a table on the edge of the runway. You collect them and leave towards a a hut where a flyblown taxi awaits, (not dissimilar to flying into Coventry at midnight). Shanty town corrugation defines the streets from the mud and then you arrive at your glistening resort. This is the world of the tourist. Luxury in hell. But please do not feel bad. Without your money it would just be hell. The trickle of money that tourists bring to the stricken economies of the world is a lifeline to a future.
But don't let me depress you. The human spirit is an amazing thing. It generates warmth like a Sun. There was still a strong sense of community, of tradition and of hope. Outside of the hotel laagers, the markets thrive and the tourists negotiate. I spent two hours bargaining with a splendid looking gentleman for a gourd pot. I was on top of my game, I walked away, I was patient, I halved the offer price. I was Hot. As he wrapped my pot in an old newspaper he told me "Sir, you are a mighty negotiator". He handed me a small package. "Here is a free gift".
He had the grace to contain his mirth until I was at the next stall. That is where I met and had a long conversation with this lovely woman in her batique as subtle as lace. Chin stained blue and gentle smile. The kind of soft sheltered toplight that you normally have to manufacture. I had bought a second-hand Olympus OM1 for the holiday. Literally never even used it before getting off the plane. From one of the second-hand camera shops at the top of Tottenham Court Road, (well, they used to be there). The kind of shop that would have inspired JK Rowling to create Olivanders. For reasons I shall never know, as I never used it again, it had a love affair with the four rolls of ektachrome, (all I could afford). They produced perfect prodigy. The likes of which I have rarely reproduced.
The beaches are huge. The mid-Atlantic rollers pile into the sand with fresh, free food every day. The doughty fishermen brave the waves and the undertow to feed their community as they have always done. The fish are plentiful. The fishermen are declining as their children decline to learn their family trade. Who will feed everyone when they are gone.