Squirting Milk at Chameleons: An Accidental African
The tale of an Englishman making a life for himself in Senegal
Khady pulled out a breast and with a deadly aim fired milk at the chameleon. "If I don't offer it milk, our son will grow up to look like a lizard," she explained. Clearly I had a lot to learn about life in Africa.
On the cusp of middle age, Simon Fenton leaves Britain in search of adventure and finds Senegal, love, fatherhood, witch doctors—and a piece of land that could make a perfect guest house, if only he knew how to build one. The Casamance is an undiscovered paradise here mystic Africa governs life, people walk to the beat of the djembe, when it rains it pours, and the mangoes are free. But the fact that his name translates to "vampire" and he has had a curse placed on him via the medium of eggs could mean Simon’s new life may not be so easy.
greet me. The car carried on, lumbering forward into a shop, knocking over a stand. He laughed, shouting no problem. “It’s God’s will.” “God’s will that you forgot to put the handbrake on?” “No, no, it’s not my fault, it’s God’s will.” What a great life view, not having to take responsibility for anything. He is now my ex-mechanic. Belief is perhaps my biggest conflict; myself a biology graduate non-believer and Khady a superstitious Muslim. I have such a strong sense of wonder of the
I’d managed to spend two years here without touching one. Christmas Day itself was dreadful. It wasn’t my first terrible Christmas abroad – I’ve had joyful festive seasons on the beach in Sydney and in the heart of Bangkok but have also been trapped on a remote Ugandan lake island with a group of Alabamian fundamentalist missionaries and in Hanoi with nothing but a six-pack of Tiger beer, a tube of Pringles and a “family edited” version of a Pamela Anderson movie. On this particular occasion,
the ground, where she lay twitching. The beat picked up again and an old man passed me a filthy calabash filled with sweet palm wine, which I drank before starting my own funky strut into the circle’s centre. Like anything in life, once you start, you have to commit and continue. You also have to time it right. Start too far back, like I did, and you’re strutting on your own in the dark, not sure if anyone can see you. I felt like a right pillock, but had to carry on. Eventually I emerged into
to the other. I felt an odd calm knowing that I had a slim chance of surviving this crash. It wasn’t so much my life flashing before my eyes as a satisfaction that despite the mistakes, the struggles and the disappointments, I had lived my life my way, mostly happily, and in a way I was proud of. I was ready, which is not to say I wasn’t shitting myself. That evening, after the crash, I crouched in the dark and ladled water over myself to wash off the diesel, dust and blood. I felt Ibrahima’s
was inside the trunk and a swarm was buzzing around cracks through which they accessed their hive. Bakary lit a fire underneath, then poked burning twigs into the cracks before blasting into the trunk with an axe. He wore a long sleeved coat with hood and a sun hat. The bees, understandably in my opinion, weren’t especially happy and swarmed all over us. As I’m wont to do, I stood still, grinning like fury. It’s when you panic that they sting. I have faced down a charging gorilla and gangsters in