Monday, 21 November 2016

E mail

timid tom at g mail dot com

Thursday, 17 November 2016

Extract from "Jodie's Wheels" due to be published at Christmas 2016

"Jodie's Wheels" is the working title of the next Malinding Series of Kindle Ebooks, available from Amazon. All income from the sales of these books is put directly into GOES bank account to help with education and health care in the Gambia.

In this extract Jodie, a wheelchair user, meets Sirra, the ex-Alkalo (Head) of Malinding village while they are both visiting Gladstone's Library in North Wales.

'Sorry if I was staring. I'm Sirra Ceesay, from Malinding village, in the Gambia' and held out her hand.

'And I'm Jodie Sonko, from darkest Cheshire. My mum and dad are over there, talking to people. How do you do?' Get me again, all this white tribe ritual.

'Hello, Jodie. Is it OK to sit and talk for a while?'

'Yeah, so long as you don't try to …' I was going to say 'try to molest me' but I managed to switch out of potty-mouth mode. I could sense Rachel beaming at me. Where had she been for the past couple of weeks? Sirra smiled.

'No, nothing like that, whatever you thought'.

 I tried again.

'Do you live in a mud hut with a thatched roof? Are there lots of wild tribes fighting each other? Do you … ' I know when I'm being laughed at. As soon as we got home I was going to ask dad to sponsor me for a brain transplant.

'Sorry, Jodie, I wasn't laughing at you. Of course we don't do any of those things, anymore than you do. We do have several tribes, I'm Mandinka. There are also Wolof, Jola, Serehula and Aku.  Some people do live in mud brick houses but they may well have piped water and electricity. And to be honest, it's far too hot to fight. And to explain why I wanted to talk to you, well, you look like a Mandinka girl.' Was that an insult? Was it better or worse than looking like a girl from Widnes? I could hear Rachel telling me to shut up and listen. Fat chance.

'I'm here because my mum and dad wanted me to be here. I'm adopted. My real mum's dead. My legs are like this because I was in a car crash. I'm rubbish with books and I'm so stupid I'm a plank. I'm a half caste and a half wit.'

'Jodie, that's not you. I suppose you could call my children half caste. My first husband was a white man. He died a while ago and I came back here to help remember him. I've two children. My son is the Alkalo, the chief, of our village. He's also a university lecturer. My daughter is a lawyer and she's also a member of parliament. And you don't seem to be at all half-witted. You can listen, you can express yourself fluently and you're not afraid to ask questions. I'm a teacher. Don't look so scared, I won't bite. We have crocodiles to do that for us.' It took me a moment to see that she was joking. I hoped she was, about the crocodiles, anyway. I was having a conversation with a stranger. What was happening to me? I was having meals with the wrong names. I was being fairly polite. I was staying in the sort of place that normally wouldn't let me in. I was in the sort of place I didn't know existed.


'Yes, Jodie?'

'Tell me about Africa?'

'Don't look for the differences. Look for the similarities. Start small. Let's start with Malinding. A couple of hundred compounds - places where people live. Men, women and children. There are three schools, a clinic, half a dozen mosques.'

Friday, 11 November 2016

Two minutes silence

Today, at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, I stood silently in the market square of my home time, recalling the occasions when I have stood in the War Grave Cemetery at Fajara, in the Gambia.
In that garden lie the bodies of many brave young men who gave their lives so that we may live as free men and women, free to hope that our children will also life in peace, irrespective of colour or race. The neatly tended graves point to a multicultural community, young Gambians, a French Legion Officer, the British crew of a crashed flying boat, all sacrificed their lives for us.
It disturbs me that I can visit their lovely country, enjoy the 'Smiling Coast' whenever I wish to, but the families of those Gambian Heroes are generally denied travel to Britain, which many still call their motherland, denied a Visa because our Government suspects possible 'immigrants' and labels them 'Aliens'. Perhaps more people should visit Fajara and wander among the graves, and weep.

Thursday, 3 November 2016

Where characters come from ...

I guess most writers of fiction are questioned about how they find their characters. Let's have a look at Jodie Sonko, the girl I'm writing about at the moment.
She started life when I was a little boy living in Widnes, seventy years ago. Mrs E lived across the road from us and was a sort of second mother to most of the kids in Norlands Lane. She lived, it seemed, in a hand-propelled wheelchair and the story we believed was that she had crashed her sports car on an icy road one night and lay trapped beneath it till the next morning. She didn't have children of her own but her door was open to the gang I played cricket (in the road) with, and she listened to our stories of digging caves and building bonfires and trapping rabbits ... so she's Jodie?
Not entirely. She's also my cousin Margaret, who lived in Knutsford. I used to cycle there from home most week-ends. Margaret was a few years older than me and always seemed to be having adventures. She was, I think, unaware of my existence, but I was amazed that someone so glamourous could have adventures and still be a girl!
I picked 'Jodie' for her name because I don't know anyone called that and Sonko became her family name because one of my best friends has that name and I borrowed it!
So, beware. Don't speak to writers if you don't want to have bits of you mixed up and put in a book!
Quite a number of my family and friends are featured in the Malinding village books. None under their real names, some have changed colour, some have changed jobs, some have been mixed up with imaginary characters, some would possibly never speak to me again if they knew. So, I won't end by saying 'You know who you are' because I hope you don't! The villains, of course, are purely imaginary. Of course they are ...