Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Back to a Great British Heatwave after a Bit of Gambian Heaven

The Great British Heatwave

We were lucky - returning to England from Gambia to the Great British Heatwave!  Five whole days it lasted.  Plenty of time to keep my tan going.  Plenty of time to start mucking out the garden and admire the spring flowers, trees and shrubs.

Plenty of time to watch the bluetits, robins and my resident blackbird couple get a hefty dose of spring fever and sing their hearts out as they collected 'stuff' to feather their nests, eat seed and catfood from the old pine tree stump.
Plenty of time to watch our two cats get their own dose of spring fever as they jumped about like kittens, in and out of the privet, up and down the cherry tree.

And now we're in April and the temperature has come down 25oC - from 27 to 2 - and there's sleet and snow flurries.  Go figure!

A Bit of Gambian Heaven

Ten glorious days of Gambian heaven.  Ten glorious days of sunshine and swimming.  Ten glorious days gazing at wild birds and animals.
Where we stayed in Gambia
I can't even begin to describe to you, constant readers, the wonders of Gambia and the excitement of Senegal.  This sure was a trip not to be missed.  Gambia is a country that just has to be explored. And we explored and relaxed - relaxed and explored until we decided we just have to return to Glorious Gambia to do a bit more of this relaxing and exploring some day!

I'll be writing articles about the amazing people we met along the way.  About Aziz, the 'bird man', whose knowledge of Gambian birds is astounding.  He took us to Abuko Nature Reserve where we saw the most amazing birds, sun squirrels and a monitor lizard.  We met with hyenas at the Animal orphanage and drank fizzy malta while I haggled for a couple of kingfisher wood carvings.

Aziz took us to Senegal too, on the ferry from Banjul to Barra -  which was the most colourful spectacle ever - as people loaded with packages and plastic buckets ran on to a overloaded boat. On and on they came, so that a 45 minute trip took us 2 hours, packed together like sardines! Brilliant experience!

From Barra, we met up with our four-wheel drive to cross the border into Senegal to visit Fatalah Wildlife Park, where we saw giraffes, antelope, rhinoceros, ostrich, zebra, buffalo, warthogs. I rode on the back tyre of the four wheel drive, clinging on to the metal poles all the way back to Barra for the ferry home!

Pack of Noisy Weavers

Aziz also took us to Brufut Wood for another wild bird-fest.  Unbelievable experience to see an owl hiding from marauding magpies (pied crows) and a night jar nestled on the ground in among the undergrowth.

Heron eating Oysters among the Mangroves

I'll be writing too about Hattib, who took us on an unforgettable cruise on a pirogue - just him, us two tourists and the crew - among the mangroves on the River Gambia from Denton Bridge to the seaport at Banjul.  I swam in the river, where, on its banks, tens of thousands of oysters clung to the branches of the mangroves, where women collected them from small fishing boats, where herons gazed at us from the tops of the trees and the riverbank, where 5 pelicans played as we sunbathed on the top deck of our boat and drank beer and fruit cocktails.

Elusive Red Monkey                                
Monkeying About!
Hattib was also our guide to Bijilo Forest Park where we saw monkeys (including the elusive red monkey) and walked the beautiful forest trail.

I'll be writing too about the wonderful staff at Palm Beach Hotel, Kotu Beach and the Palm Beach Bar - namely Aruna, Baka and Amadou - not forgetting Omar the 'ciggie man' who sold us the cheapest ciggies I've bought in years and the 'vulture man' who fed the vultures every day at the riverside at 5pm!!

I'll also be including in my articles the fact that our hotel was situated on the Gambian river estuary where a family of pied kingfishers lived and fished and watched the world go by; where we caught flashes of the blue kingfisher; where herons fished in the river for sand-crabs and chased around for shellfish in the waves at the sea's edge, unconcerned about the bathers and paddlers nearby!

Write On:

Just a week or so before leaving for Gambia, the postman brought me what I'd been dreaming about for MONTHS!  He brought me the Spring 2012 edition of 'This England', where I found my two page glossy feature, 'Ghosts and Games of Long Ago Liverpool'.  Thank you for publishing me This England - thank you SO MUCH!

The Spring 2012 issue of This England is now on sale: with any luck a herald of finer, milder weather. There is certainly a great deal in the magazine to provide warmth and cheer, with inspiring tributes to several great men, articles exploring different parts of the  country, and details of intriguing customs and exciting forthcoming events. Highlights include:
  • Dickens of London – A bicentenary tribute to one of England’s best-loved novelists.
  • Ghosts and Games of Long-Ago Liverpool – A writer’s return to the Lancashire port awaken powerful memories.*This one's my article!
  • Exploring England’s Coastline – North through County Durham from the Tees to the Tyne.
  • Students & St. George – Young people’s thoughts on England today.
  • Merrie England…in 2012 – An album of colourful customs from around the country.
  • A Royal History of England – King John has a bad reputation. We find out if it is deserved.
  • English Excursions – Exploring the wild but beautiful countryside of Dartmoor.
  • Great Britons – The stirring story of Captain Scott, hero of the Antarctic.
  • Ten Reasons Why Nottingham is Still Queen – A resident pays tribute to her historic home city. 

My next blog will include links to recent published articles online - PROMISE, constant readers. I don't want to be guilty of overkill! 
Interestingly, the fact that I'm all over the internet, brought me this...

Blast from the Past!

Yours Truly at Sweet Sixteen!
That's what the title of the email said as I opened it with curiosity.  Turned out to be a message from a girl I knew in my misspent youth (!!) at Whitehaven Grammar School.  Barbara Bartley (nee Wright) told me she corresponds with Neil Hutcheon, Maggie Allen and David Jordison (more friends from the Swingin' Sixtes!).  She told me they'd been talking about me and decided to look me up on the net - and of course, there I was!  I'm now part of that emailing group of friends - so that makes us a round five now.  I'm loving the 'crack' (Cumbrian expression) with these lovely people who are now sextagenarians (or SEXY-genarians!) like me, two whom I haven't seen since 1966 (when we were sweet sixteen) and two I haven't seen since 1970 (when I was twenty).  Brilliant, isn't it, constant readers?


Talk soon, folks.  I mustn't leave it so long before the next episode.  And perhaps, next time, more will have joined the small but tightly-knit throng of followers of my blog. 29 of you have joined already since its birth on New Year's Day 2011. And I thank you from the bottom of my heart.  I hope there are more of you out there who want to become constant readers of Writing for my Life.


  1. Great blog Sheila, fantastic travel photos too. Africa must have been an amazing experience.

    1. Thanks Mark. Nice of you to drop by. Maybe I'll climb to a '2' score soon!!

  2. Yup Africa must be a champion location for anyone looking for exotic Adventure Travel. The wildlife pictures are fantastic. Seeing all those animals would be a dream come true. I am not even certain if I had heard of a Red Monkey before, it certainly is not a species featured in zoos here in Canada. I am planning a vacation this summer but nothing so grand as Africa, this would be an ideal dream trip though. This year we are just going to Vancouver, still worth visiting, I miss the smell of the ocean, and want my daughter to see the place where she was born, and lived for a year. Anyhow great travel blog Sheila, very much enjoyed.

    1. Thank you soooo much for a super comment, kaleidoscope. Must look you up.

  3. Hi Sheila what a great blog; I think your work and you are so inspiring.
    I love writing,taking photos,exploring the countryside,laughter,nature,animals and a whole load more !!!
    I look forward to following your blog and will send you a link to mine when I've sorted it, which should be in this next week.
    Take care from across the border in Wales.

  4. Cheers, Eddy from Wales, my brand new writer friend. Thanks for visiting my blog and taking the time to leave a comment. I'll be looking out for your articles on my newsfeed and following up bit by bit on your older work too. I'm going to soooo enjoy being one of your writing buddies! Send me that link soon as you've got it sorted. Hugs - Sheila XXX

  5. The photos are gorgeous. You must have had an amazing time.
    Thanks for sharing them. I hope to visit someday.

  6. Thanks Lady Elena. So glad you like the blog.

  7. Cool photos.I visited your triond page and searched for your blog.
    dee gold

  8. Thanks dee gold. That was nice of you. Are you on Triond? I can't recall where it is I know you from. Please let me know and I'll return the favour.