Tag Archives: Bennimix

Infamy, infamy, they’ve all got it infamy

That’s a fat wean you’ve got there


I’m with Sam and JJ in a restaurant. A man comes in with his daughter, she’s around seven, I would say, and a little chunky. Sam says ‘that’s a beautiful daughter you have there’, the man smiles.

“Hello sweetheart! You want to keep fit, eh? Not eat so much or you will end up veeeeeery fat.”

The man doesn’t smile.


Foreigner top trumps

When I run in Bo, all the kids shout puh mei, which is white man in Mende, I’m told that it literally translates as stranger. In Makeni, the people are Temne so they should opoto which apparently derives from early Portuguese traders in that area. From Porto.

When you run near south east Asians, they all shout Chinese, as they seem to win the battle for rarity points.


I’m here all week, try the cruin cruin

Ernest Bai Koroma is temne limba so I guess he gets annoyed really quickly and then spends hours apologising…


Well, it is a massive imposition

I hate when people in work make a massive deal about asking for something really small. I feel like saying, come on guys I’ve been here for six months surely you’ve worked out by now that I’m not a total dick.

Mister Sow comes into the office, I love Mister Sow he’s a really funny guy. Mister Sow at a police roadblock is just amazing, slowing down then shooting off shouting ‘fuck off’. It’s amazing. Absolutely amazing. He’s asking if he can put a water in the fridge and asking it like it’s a really big deal. Why don’t you take a cold one out of the fridge instead. ‘Oh, thank you Mister Gareth, thank you so much.’

Come on guys.


Chinese whispers

An activist of the environmental action

I went to Makeni with Sam and our Provincial Salesman, I, Jospeh Jenewai. They came to cheer me on but slept in. Sam said that he saw someone that might have been me, but in my wildest dreams I wasn’t going that fast that you wouldn’t recognise me.

Anyway, I do like Joseph he’s very typical of salespeople that I’ve met pretty much everywhere. But, even so, I do like him. Gift of the gab. Standard in his line of work.

He started telling a story that he had heard on the BBC News the day before, I was only half listening but I heard something about a monkey protesting in the UK, which isn’t impossible I guess, in a zoo, throwing stones, surprised it made the news all the same.

Then I heard him say that it had set fire to itself.  It had got itself some fuel and…

I’m sure that this was all completely unconnected to the previous day’s news that a Buddhist monk in Sri Lanka had self-immolated in protest at the killing of cows.


Infamy, infamy, they’ve all got it infamy

Hi, I’m John

Hi, I’m Gareth

Oh, you’re the guy that got his head burst open at the Gaelic football!

Really? Still?



He’s the Chet Baker of restaurateurs

What’s wrong with Salone

In the UK we occasionally get a lot of snow, roads close, schools close, factories close and everybody moans. Why haven’t we planned for this? In Denmark/ Canada/Russia they get much worse weather and the world doesn’t stop.

They miss the point.

It’s worth the investment in infrastructure in these countries to compensate for the climate and, so, the investment is made. In the UK it’s, simply, not, or they would do it. It’s just not worth it for the sporadic bouts of exceptionally bad weather that we get in our temperate little climate. To illustrate this how many people in the UK do you know that buy snow tyres or chains for their tyres? How many people do you think have them in Norway? I would guess, maybe, all of them.

We should just moan less and get the sledge out the cupboard. The one we don’t get to use every year.

In Salone there will always be problems with the lack of infrastructure, or at least there will be for the foreseeable future, but sometimes I feel like everyone is planning as if everything is perfect.

Or not planning at all.

The UN were in town for some team bonding, they hired out an entire hotel. The Dohas hotel. The best in town. It’s 400,000 per room per night, that’s a months salary for a lot of people in Bo.

My friend James asked me to come down and watch the Spurs Chelsea game with him, they have a lovely TV poolside, it’s really nice. Really, really nice. The game kicked off and then the TV went off. The staff knew that we were watching it but no-one came to explain or apologise. We had to go and ask. No apology was given but the explanation offered was that the generator needed maintenance so there would be no power for an indeterminate length of time. Generators ALWAYS need maintenance. You’re charging a king’s ransom for a room buy two. Sod it, buy three.

Sometimes you just think, ‘come on guys, is this shit really, really this difficult’?!


He’s the Chet Baker of restaurateurs

Maurie runs Mars internet café, he also owns a restaurant called Kama. He’s spent a lot of time in San Francisco and he exudes West Coast cool. Does he? Or am I just making shit up. You’ll never know… Anyway, I was told in January that it was the best restaurant in Bo but it’s never actually been open. It’s closed for maintenance. It’s been closed for maintenance for five months.

Don’t get me wrong it’s getting there- “Small small Gareth, small small”- but the Easter grand opening became “Lemme say April, Gareth. Lemme say April” and we’re now quite far into May.

I don’t know if I’ll even be here long enough to get to eat there.


Menu for reference only

Most restaurants will only have light during the day so you buy most of the stock for the restaurant on a daily basis. If you go for food later on you might have to take what they have not what you originally wanted. Sometimes the giving out of menus with long lists of available dining options feels like a formality, a nod to what a restaurant is rather than any guide to what you might actually be having to eat that evening.

Often menus will be laid out orders taken, drinks brought and then after what can sometimes be a lengthy wait the waitress comes back to say that they don’t have what you ordered, this can also be followed up by a further lengthy wait to find that they don’t have choice number two either. If there’s a large table of you then this can take some time.

If you’re dining late at night in Bo my advice is to wander in cut out the niceties and say:

“OK guys, what have you actually got?”

I love a nice pear

Pageant season

I got invited to Miss Djalla University Beauty Pageant at the Rio Cinema on Friday night. I didn’t think I could make it but as my friend pointed out ‘when is the next time that you’ll get asked to a beauty pageant’.

Saturday came and I managed to gate crash the UNDP team bonding weekend, a nice Lithuanian chap gave me some beer tokens so I was upscaled from Star to Carlsberg immediately.

Then I heard that someone had slaughtered a goat and was having a shindig, there’s not a man alive (sorry Mozza) that’s knocking back an offer like that. So off I went.

Rolled home at four in the morning having had my fill of beer and goat, forgot all about the pageant.

Saturday got invited to the Miss Dohas Hotel Beauty Pageant.


Awright bawbags.

I met this really amazing doctor, Irish paediatrician called Niall he used to work in the RAH so he knew where I’m from really well. He said:

“I can’t believe someone from Paisley is running the Bennimix factory. Rock and Roll. Turning up in the morning saying awright bawbags, let’s get to work.”

A phrase that I rarely, if ever, employ. Well, certainly not nearly enough.

He’s been here three weeks and I’m meeting him tonight to watch the Arsenal Wigan game. Well, hopefully.

The thing is with Niall he’s so dedicated that he’s been working seven days and he doesn’t like to be too far away from the ward as he’s worried that if he is a child will die.

My concern is that if he tries to keep that up for a year he’ll kill himself.


Malaria optional

I know of a girl, a Scottish girl, who is waiting to be flown home. They think that she has meningitis. If she does a doctor I know (who, thankfully, no longer has braids) will have saved her life. She wasn’t taking her anti-malarials (the Jock not the Doc) and malaria massively affects your immune system.

Did I mention that she was Scottish?

A lot of ex-pats will tell you that anti-malarials are dangerous, they do your organs long term damage.

All the doctors I’ve spoken to tell you to take them.

I’ll leave that particular decision up to you.


I love a nice pear

It’s funny living in a community. It’s so different from London. I lived in a flat in London for six years and didn’t know the person next door. Our front doors were half a metre apart.

When I go to the well in the morning I say hello to Alpha Rogers, through his bedroom window, lying on his bed, in his pants.

This morning a woman shouted me over because she had nice (avocado) pears and she knows I often buy pears.

You don’t get that service in Tesco.

They call me the vulture

Always the mark

Hamid and Robert won’t let me go and buy anything for the factory, in fact I can’t even go with them as immediately the puh mei is spotted prices automatically double and there follows a tedious negotiation to get the price back to the normal level. A tedious negotiation solely caused by my presence. It’s a shame because going to the market to buy stuff is fun.

I mind less on a personal level because, generally, even double isn’t that much and I know what staples like bread and things cost so I never pay more for them and, generally, don’t get asked to. Five hundred bread is five hundred bread, the clue’s in the title.

But it can get annoying, especially when people really take the piss, like a bike trying to double the price of a ride that you make all the time or a taxi driver trying to charge you for cha cha even though you’ve asked where he’s going and you’ve said about a dozen times that you don’t mind if he picks up.

Often it’s not even really the money but the principle that you don’t really like looking like a tourist (because Bo gets a lot of those) but you do catch yourself sometimes when find that you’re arguing over pennies with some raggy arsed kid selling mangos. You can’t really put that down to principles.

That’s just being a dick.


My friend Ian (hullo) has questioned whether I’m fully telling you about the harsh realities of my life in my blog.

This weekend I’m going to the beach where they filmed the Bounty advert in the eighties. Sometimes I feel my life here is just too tough to bear…

But this isn’t Rio, this isn’t a country where the beach provides an egalitarian escape.

For one, most of the beaches are quite far from town, certainly quite far from Kroo Town so getting a poda poda out there has a cost implication- even if you do manage to find one that can make it down the beach road. More importantly there’s also a time implication. Who has time to go to the beach when you’re trying to scrape together enough money to feed, clothe and wash your family?

The beaches seem like they’re  a place to go for special occasions and there are loads of ‘outings’ on weekends and Bank Holidays where busloads of locals head there with food, drinks, footballs and absolutely massive sound systems but in the context of the overall population of Freetown it feels like the beach is a treat for some but nothing more than an irrelevance to most.

Back in Freetown today

Being white in Bo is like being a pop star, there’s a lot of excitement generated when you walk down the street, people shouting, laughing, smiling but I guess in Freetown it’s been a long time since a white man was of interest.

So, yesterday I was big news and today I’m nothing.

I feel like Steve Brookstein.


They call me the vulture

I’ve never lived in student flat (Glasgow University has the highest percentage of ‘stay at home’ students in the world apparently) but I have heard all the tales about people marking cartons of milk etc.

I really thought that would never be me.

The house I’m in now is a bit like a student flat, on the rare occasions that Gill stays it’s all very ‘how do you do’ but usually it’s a mess of Coke cans, men sleeping on the settee in their underpants and me being introduced to another different gahl in the morning.

One of the things that annoys me, and I tried not to be annoyed and held out for ages, is the food free for all. It’s not that I mind buying stuff communally per se it’s just that a) I’m the only idiot that does and b) anything bought by anyone else is kept in the bedroom even things like ketchup and (dairy free) mayo that surely, surely we can share.

It’s the inconvenience, not the money, coming home to get something to find it’s gone means a bike trip to the shop to replace it, or more likely, just not having it.

So, now I’m embarrassed to say that in a little cupboard in my bedroom you’ll find couscous, pasta, two tins of sardines in chilli oil, a tin of tomatoes, a tin of tomato puree,  a tin of houmous, a tin of tuna, two packets of ramen noodles and a jar of olives.

Titty ye not

Emerging markets

For big corporates the markets in the more established ecomomies are basically flat or flatlining, there will be some ups and downs some new products that do well but, broadly, if you’ve been hawking your wares in France, or Germany or Japan or the US for the past fifty years your probably selling less. You’re definitely looking to sell more. You’re most definitely looking to sell or sell more in Africa.

I’m not saying that this is good or bad, as a middle class emerges they want iPods and tablets, Nike trainers all the things that the see on the TV really. Just like everybody else.  That’s just human nature,

But there’s what people want, what people think that they want and what people are told that they want that they really, really don’t.

Formula is the obvious one, Save The Children estimate that 1.45 million babies die globally by having powdered milk instead of ‘titty water’ in the first hour of life. That’s quite well known, maybe not the specifics but certainly the concept.

One of the worst I’ve seen out here is the quite aggressive marketing of sanitary towels by giving them away. I think that’s quite aggressive, that’s trying to create a market by giving things away to people that clearly don’t need them and telling them that they do.

I don’t know (or want to know) exactly what has been done here for the last millennia (I don’t really know what goes on at home- what the fuck is a moon cup?) but the point is that you’re trying to make money by fixing a problem that doesn’t exist without caring about the massive problem that gets created.

People are struggling to feed their children properly and you’re telling them they now need sanitary towels. Rubbish get’s taken away once a month, people here don’t buy many packaged goods, a bottle will be reused and recycled because a bottle is useful and valuable. Up country sanitary towels would end up on the street, on the coast they would end up in the sea. It’s totally amoral but totally understandable multinationals in a capitalist society will be amoral- it’s basically their job to take things to the edge of the law to increase shareholder value. To blame them is like blaming Jimmy Carr for the UK tax legislation being shit.

It’s not his job any more than it’s the job of BP to protect the Amazonian Rainforest and it’s preposterous to think that they will care unless you provide incentive for them to care.

Corporate Social Responsibility for multinationals, most specifically, in the, less protected, developing world needs to start to affect share price or they will be fixated on increased sales at the expense of everything else and to blame them would be to misunderstand the nature of capitalism. Governments and the major NGOs need to start insisting on a better environmental audit of a more onerous code of conduct but it just doesn’t seem to be the case that this is taken seriously in any way, shape or form.

It might let you down

Hassling the Hoff.

Hassling the Hoff.

Mitcham need to have some country exclusions on their 48 hour claim.

The Beach ‘Road’

When you head out west from Freetown you hit Lakka Beach and then after that, as you go down the Beach Road, it’s just stunning beach after stunning beach after stunning beach. People here argue over which beach is better or worse but it’s at the pedantic level of ‘the sand is too fine at that beach’ or some other ridiculous observation. They’re all amazing. Burrah is better for surf, John Obey has the lagoon, Tokeh is slightly more developed but they’re all completely, completely amazing.

Occasionally you even find yourself on a completely deserted beach, four of us went to Baw Baw (yeah, Baw Baw) one Sunday and didn’t see another living soul for the entire day.

But this won’t last. And shouldn’t.

One of the main issues is the fact that the Beach Road isn’t actually a road, not all the way anyway. A taxi driver will charge you around 20,000 per hour in Freetown but treble or more to go to the beach as, eventually, it will break the suspension his car. You actually think that the beaches are much further away because it takes so long to get there going at 5 or 10mph.

It’s quite clear that this road project won’t get completed this year as the rains are almost upon us but it must be high on the agenda. Equally important is controlling the tourist industry along the peninsula to try and protect what is there within the bounds of helping more people to earn a good living. It’s going to be incredibly difficult to balance.

Why always us?

Chimp magic

Now THAT'S magic

Now THAT’S magic

Went to Tacugama chimp sanctuary on the edges of Freetown. It’s about an hour out of town but it really does feel like you’re in the rainforest, staying in a tree house was pretty special as well; lying in a hammock on the balcony listening to the chimps talk to each other down below.


No early release

Of the estimated 5,000 chimps still in Sierra Leone 104 are in Tacugama. Most of them have been rescued from being pets and the theory is that the chimps go through stages from quarantine, to introduction to a small group, to introduction to the larger group and then released back in to the wild.

The problem that they have is that the market for bush meat is still massive either as a delicacy or as an important source of protein so it’s difficult to see how they will get to the point of releasing them, they spoke of increased help from the government as regards protection, post release, but it’s hard to see how feasible that is given the expanse that chimps in the wild roam across and the difficulty of telling a hungry man what he can and can’t eat.

Why always us?

Tacugama was started when an idiot ex-pat Jock abandoned a pet chimp that they didn’t know what to do with…

Man strength

Chimps in the wild have a fear of man (probably unsurprising, we have guns) but growing up in Tacugama they have no such fear, I guess as man is bringing them food they see man as sub-servient. This is an issue as a fully grown chimp has the strength of five men so any release would have to be well away from any villages

There was a big break out from Tacugama a few years back and when a taxi driver got out of his cab five chimps tore him limb from limb.


I’m a soul man

Chimps are incredibly close to humans as regards DNA, think that they said 98.4%, it’s amazing to see how similar their facial expressions are, they look like wise old men. And when the stand erect they really do just look like quite hairy men.

The taxi driver that took us up said that chimps are EXACTLY the same as us, except that they have no soul.


Not big, not clever, not legal

Monkey Mitt

Monkey Mitt

Some guys I know run a company (that I won’t name) and all live in one big house.

There’s a lot of testosterone in that house.

A local came round to sell them a monkey called Mitt. They bought the monkey and now have a monkey that they don’t know what to do with. If you knew them this wouldn’t greatly surprise you.

Of course the monkey wasn’t called Mitt what they were being sold was meat.

So they now have a pet monkey called ‘meat’.

Could they not get hold of Champs League tickets?

There’s a competition to win prizes with Star beer at the moment. You can flip open your bottle top to instantly (presumably they don’t just appear) win goats, motorbikes, generators, money, more Star Beer or Europa League Final tickets.

I’m almost certain that I’m going to win a goat.


Axle Folly

Someone said that they could never work out why people don’t push their cars into the side when they break down. It’s often because the axle has just completely buckled.



Cause and effect

Salone needs Jessie Jackson back

Jesse Jackson 2

“If my mind can conceive it, and my heart can believe it, I know I can achieve it”.
Amen Jesse. Amen.

So, I’m still having issues with the racist on my street, he’s eleven months now so I really feel like he’s becoming too old to still be holding such narrow minded views.

Even with his mum holding him I can’t get within five yards before he starts screaming.


1,000 Leone is about 23 Cents

My friend David was over, he was buying cigarettes. He had earlier purchased two packets of Marlboro Red for 10,000 Leones.  A street vendor tried to sell him one packet for 6,000 and he knocked it back in a disgusted manner. When I asked him what the hell he was doing he said ‘copying you’.

I guess living on $250 a month makes you watch the pennies.

As a post script I ended up buying him fags for 7,000 down at the beach. Instant karma I guess.


Africa kills cheese

2.3kg Mozzerella - £12.59...to you...758 bucks.

2.3kg Mozzerella – £12.59…to you…758 bucks.

If you’re coming out here probably the best gift that you can give an ex-pat is cheese.

Cheese over here is very expensive and highly sought after.

A 350g piece of Best In (you know ‘Best In’, it’s a brand sold in independent grocers, and by ‘independent’ I mean the ones selling Special Brew at four in the morning not the ones with the nice selection of olives) Gouda will set you back 10 bucks in the supermarket on Fenton Road. And try getting something nice out here in Bo. Just not possible.

When my brother came over my dad sent out some nice smoked applewood cheese from Arran wrapped in wax. That will keep for a bit, surely. It’s in wax and it’s smoked.

So I, duly, put it in the fridge (I call it a fridge, well, it is a fridge it’s just a fridge without electricity is really just a white box in the corner of your room) and after a day the wax melted and the oil all came out. It went like smoked crowdie.*

Still delicious.

*inferior English soft cheeses are available.


The second best gift

"Avon calling...itchy arse you say...I've got just the thing!"

“Avon calling…itchy arse you say…I’ve got just the thing!”

Avon Skin So Soft is a pretty effective mosquito repellent and it doesn’t smell like deet.


Soon it will be their chance to try to save the world

There’s some really terrible charity names about. Probably the two I dislike the most are Concern and Goal.

Could you be any less specific?

Favourite is Mercy Incorporated which I think could easily double as the name for a WWF Tag Team.


Why do you say hello to people when you’re hiking?

There’s quite a lot of local joggers out here, the standard etiquette when you pass is a little clap of the hands.


Cause and effect

If it had rained a little more we would have a little more water in the dam which would mean a little bit of National Power which would mean that my house wouldn’t be dark which would mean that I wouldn’t be sitting in the pub watching Sunderland Stoke.


Shit or get off the pot

Passed the fat smiler this morning, he was on his little bucket. He was desperate to jump up to shout hello but couldn’t because he was slap bang in the middle of his morning shit.

You just can’t rush these things.