The British in Africa

(The following poem was typed hastily into an iPhone in Senegambia, a tourist resort where the Gambia River meets the Atlantic.)

On Wednesdays and Sundays the British arrive in Banjul from Leeds and Manchester and Sunderland

Pumped in by Thomas Cook (now deceased)

A steady flow

Irrigating the coastline with beer money and sun cream.

Natural selection operates in reverse here:

The environment must adapt to survive:

Mutate in ramshackle spurts

Into something more comfortable

Where you can watch the football and find a decent pint of lager

On draught

Whilst hooded vultures hang in the sky.

They catch each other’s eyes -

Hot and tense -

Clasping passports in unspoken disapproval at the airport:

Unable to believe they might have to queue for a VISA

Then queue for immigration

Then queue again for their bags

Then wait for the shuttle

It’ll be fine ten o clock by the time we’ve checked in

Gotten settled

Changed some money

What are we going to eat?

The next day they laze at the pool,

Sucking midday pina-coladas through plastic straws (we’re on our holidays),

Swapping stories around a chemical watering hole:

We were in Australia last year,

Drove from Adelaide to Perth;

We tried Jamaica last year,

And they wouldn’t let you smoke anywhere;

My sister owns a place here -

Up at Cape Point -

She’s out here half the year

We only do a few weeks at a time though

(She’s hard work)

We like the hotel - it’s our own space.

She’s got a bad stomach today

He’s pretending to wrestle with the waiter (again)

Fabulous dresses - how do they balance all that fruit on their head?

Too many sellers for us on the beach

No thank you - maybe tomorrow.

Ample flesh devours bikini tops and bottoms,

Pink as half-cooked ham.

Tattoos sag and droop

Weighing the skin down in patches

Like hands in the pockets of baggy shorts

Or an unmentionable colostomy bag.

Birds chatter in the silk cotton trees.

A lovely young man is picking Geoff and Margaret up from the hotel at 3pm.

He’s taking them to meet his family in the village

Their names sound like broken poetry on his lips.

It’s nothing to us, is it?

A few hundred dolasi?

And they’re so friendly:

So full of life.

It’s all you can eat at the Chinese tonight.

Take a taxi - pay it to sweat and rattle down the Highway

To the Palm Tree Junction

Then take the dirt road into the darkness.

Keep dreaming,


Rob Jones & The Restless Dream

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