One of my pleasures is listening to music. All kinds of music. So on my iPod you will find several thousand tracks ranging from mainstream “pop” music (anywhere between the 1950’s and the present day) to opera, from rock music to country, from classical to R&B, to soul and anything in between. I find however that my tastes go in phases so that I will listen to the same play list or artist quite regularly for a period and then not again for quite some time, although a number of favourites reappear quite frequently. At one time I might be listening repeatedly to Mozart, another time Queen, (or Abba!), and last night I went to bed listening to the marvellous tones of Richard Burton narrating “Under Milk Wood”, but the title of my post this week is taken from a song on another of my current favourite lists. You’ve probably never heard of Coope Boyes and Simpson – they are a male vocal trio from the north of England who sing unaccompanied traditional and modern folk music and also some of their own compositions – often quite political in content with thought provoking lyrics about modern social issues, and memorable vocal harmonies. I suggest you try them out by visiting their web site , or look them up on You Tube and hope you will enjoy their singing as much as I do.
The humble mango can hardly be described as strange but should figure here simply because it seems to grow everywhere in the Gambia. There are a number of different varieties and three or four weeks ago when the trees in every compound were still laden with fruit the children were busy each day picking ripe mangos, or more likely using long poles or throwing stones into the trees to knock them down. (No attempt seems to be made to catch them, but nor do they seem to suffer any bruising even though a mango weighing maybe a kilo must have quite an impact). At night you could frequently hear the crash as yet another mango fell onto the corrugated iron roof, and one day at work I was disturbed by what sounded like an earthquake. It appeared that the gardeners were harvesting the fruit from a tree which overhung the offices and the mangos were landing on the roof by the barrow load and sliding down the tin before dropping off the eaves to the ground below. At this time the roadsides everywhere were full of little stalls selling mangos and if a vehicle stopped it was immediately besieged by a mass of women and children each with their tray of fruit trying to persuade the passers by to buy THEIR wares rather than anybody else’s. I don’t know how you were supposed to make a choice as to me they all looked very similar, and because of the competition the price doesn’t seem to vary. Unfortunately mangos do not store well so during the season they are everywhere, and after a couple of months they have disappeared although there are now one or two entrepreneurs trying to dry mangos on a commercial scale for export. So far it seems this industry is in its infancy.
Also in the compound at work we have two other strange fruit, both edible although one is not yet ripe. The “seesop” is a green fruit with a kind of hooked exterior and a white fleshy interior with large black seeds. It has a sour but not unpleasant taste which is difficult to describe although I thought it reminded me a little of coconut and a little of pineapple and sucking the seeds was quite refreshing. Having said that I didn’t rush back to try another.
As I was showing an interest in finding out if there was a European name for seesop (“soursop”?) one of my horticultural colleagues took me to show me a jack fruit tree growing near the engineering workshop. It was a tall spreading tree with large yellow-green fruit of irregular shape, but covered in lumps as if the fruit had been attacked by a swarm of bees. Apparently it belongs to the mulberry family and the fruit can grow to about a metre long and over 30kg in weight, so the mechanics of our compound who take their breaks in its shade will definitely need to be wary as the fruit ripen!
The “kabba” is another fruit I had never heard of and is a dirty yellow in colour rather like an oversize lemon (the lemons here are green by the way!) and another one that I was advised would taste sour. The ladies who sell it at the roadside stalls slice off one end and stir in a spoonful of sugar, – or salt if you prefer. I tried one with sugar and enjoyed the taste – again you take the pith and leave the hard black seeds but the version with salt hasn’t so far tempted me.