It’s nearly three weeks since I arrived back in the UK, and yesterday morning as I was talking to my neighbour over the garden fence she asked me “Are you getting back to normality now?” I replied that I supposed so, but I’m not really sure what is normality any more.
I’ve spent a lot of time working in the garden since I returned home – the weeds had multiplied in my absence and although it is not a large garden it seems to have been invaded by creeping buttercup, nettles, and ivy, all of which need digging out carefully to get all the roots otherwise they will regenerate, so it’s a slow job. Dig the tines in deep and take a small forkful before turning it over and carefully shaking out the weeds trying not to leave any roots. Fortunately the soil is moist and breaks up quite easily at present, so I’m making progress and can now see where I’ve been, even though I’m only about half way.
A Gambian friend who knew I was busy gardening asked this week whether I had finished my land preparation yet and then wanted to know whether I have strawberries, avocado, pineapples, mushrooms, apples and oranges! She has never been outside the Gambia, and obviously assumed that it was a vegetable/fruit plot I was digging and apart from not knowing about differences in cropping due to a different climate, it will not occur to her that here in England we have the luxury of growing ornamental plants rather than just food crops, so her idea of what is normal will also be very different from my neighbour’s. I hope I can soon send her a video showing my back garden, as I’m expecting the telephone company shortly to install a landline and then will no longer have to rely on a patchy mobile broadband signal to connect to the internet. (I live in an area of rural North Yorkshire where mobile broadband coverage is rather worse than in the Gambia!) I wonder what my friend will think of the clumps of daffodils, lenten rose, irises, lungwort and so on that are currently flowering in my back garden.





And I still haven’t answered the question about what is normality.
I’ve dropped back into what was a normal life before I went to Africa – I walked up our cobbled old market place on Wednesday morning to buy fruit and vegetables from one of the stalls, then called for a pork pie from the butcher before picking up a copy of our local newspaper and heading home to read it over a cup of tea; I’ve driven to the nearby supermarket to stock up on groceries, looking over the hedges meanwhile “farming” along the way; I spend the evenings reading or watching television with a glass of red wine and bar of chocolate; I’ve mowed the lawn and run the power washer over the Landrover; and for the last two days I’ve shivered over the fire as a raw wind drives the rain down outside, but is this normality? It doesn’t really feel like it yet.
It feels as though normality is 20° warmer, 3,000 miles away in the noisy overcrowded back streets of the Kombos; normality is going to bed early because the electricity is off again and my eyesight isn’t really up to reading by candlelight; normality is shaking hands with somebody every few minutes; normality is walking past a large pelican in the alley leading to the petrol station and being greeted by name by (it seems) all the kids in the street; normality is going to the bitik at 7.30am to see if the baker’s bicycle has delivered fresh tapilapa yet.
I guess it will take a while to readjust!

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